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Ambroise Paré and his times, 1510-1590 online

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and muddy. But the place was convenient for
work, near the H6tel Dieu and the lecture-rooms :
perhaps also he had in view the chances of practice,
for the Pr6-aux-clercs, near the house, was often the
scene of duels : and fighting in the streets was com-
mon, with ten or twelve thousand students of differ-
ent nationalities in Paris.

He was neither so poor nor so hopeless but that
he should fall in love ; and within a few months of
his being qualified, he was married, at his parish
church of Saint Andr6 des Arcs.

The marriage contract was signed on June 30, I54i-
His wife's name was Jehanne Mazelin, daughter of
Jehan Mazelin, "valet chauffe-cire de la Chancellerie

" Archives d' Aiitoine Louis, ancien secretaire perpetuel de I'Aca-
demie de Chirurgie : liasse intitulee, Notes sur Ambroise Pare (de
la main d' Antoine Louis). IvCS notes, recueillies toutes (1757) sur
des papiers authentiques et inedits, sout de deux mains differentes,
tres-lisibles. Malheureusement les copistes, lettres d' ailleurs, ne
connaissaient ni la langue du xvi™* siecle, ni ses signes abreviatifs ou
conventionels, source d'erreurs inevitables." But there is a most
suspicious completeness about the Pare documents that M. Begin
discovered at Metz : they are so exactly what one would wish to dis-
cover. A journal of 122 pages, in Pare's own hand ; a long letter of
good advice to his nephew Bertiand ; and his last will and testament.
M. Turner does not admit any hope that they were genuine : " au-
jourd'hui on peut afifiirmer hardiment que ces documents sont sans
aucune valeur."

Paris i6i

de France " — -famulus domini cancellarii Francice — a
servant of the great Antoine Du Prat, Chancellor of
Frangois I.; who rose to great political power during
the King's captivity at Madrid after the battle of
Pavia(i525), was Archbishop of Sens, and a Cardinal,
and is said, when Pope Clement VII. died (1533), to
have made an offer of four hundred thousand crowns
for the Papacy. Antoine Du Prat died in 1535 : the
King laid hands on his property ; and perhaps Je-
hanne's father was ruined in the general crash. Any-
how, Jehan Mazelin died before Jehanne and Am-
broise were made man and wife ; leaving behind him
Jehanne, a younger daughter named Madeline, a son
named Antoine, and other children : and his widow
was married again, this time to Estienne Cleret,
a shopkeeper in the Rue Saint Andr^ des Arcs.
Jehanne was living with her stepfather, and was
about twenty years old. What, beside proximity,
drew Jehanne and Ambroise together, we do not
know : but it was not money. This fact is proved
by their marriage contract, published by Le Paul-
mier from the old family papers at Chateau Paley,
in the possession of Mdme. la Marquise Le Charron :

" Before Jehan Dupre and Remon d'Orleans, His
Majesty's Notaries of the Chatelet, were present in
person Estienne Cleret, salesman, citizen of Paris, and
Jehanne de Prime his wife ; aforetime wife, by her first

1 62 Ambroise Par^

marriage, of the late Jehan Mazelin, . . . and Je-
hanne Mazelin, daughter of the said deceased Jehan
Mazelin and the said Jehanne de Prime, . , . and
Ambroise Pare, master barber-surgeon in this city of
Paris . . . the which parties, of their free desire and
good will without constraint have agreed and promised,
in the presence of and before the said Notaries, as in
right judgment and moreover in the presence and by the
advice, council, and deliberation of Marguerite Choisel,
widow of the late Odo de Prime, in his lifetime also
master barber-surgeon of Paris, relations on the mother's
side of the said Jehanne Mazelin, and M.6vy de Prime,
salesman and citizen of Paris, her uncle on the mother's
side, and Estienne de la Riviere and Loys Drouet, also
master barber-surgeons in Paris, friends of the said
Ambroise Pare, to make, and by these presents have
made and make together the treaty, accords, promises,
and arrangements which follow, for the marriage which
at God's pleasure will soon be made and solemnized
before Holy Church, of the said Ambroise Pare and the
said Jehanne Mazelin : that is to say the said Estienne
Cleret and his wife have promised and promise to be-
stow and give in law of marriage the said Jehanne Maze-
lin free and quit of all debts and liabilities whatsoever to
the said Ambroise Par6, who has promised and promises
to take her to wife and spouse, so quickly as he well
shall be able to do it, if God and Holy Church allow
it. . . ."

Thus the notaries ramble on, illustrating the per-
petual contrast between law and medicine. M^ry
de Prime, Estienne de la Riviere, and Loys Drouet,

Paris 163

come again into Park's life: his friends rose with
him, and kept near him. Jehanne brought Am-
broise six hundred livres tournois, and her clothes :
Ambroise settled on Jehanne two hundred livres
tournois. If he died, she was to keep all her clothes,
rings, and trinkets then in actual use : if she died,
he was to keep his clothes, rings, and surgical instru-
ments. They gave up all her rights of succession,
and all further claim on Estienne Cleret. The six
hundred livres tournois were paid over to them on
July i6th. The wedding-day came afterward : for in
the receipt for the money, Jehanne is not called
"sa femme" but "sa fiencee en Saincte Eglise."

Man and Wife.

Two years after their marriage, on October 21,
1543, they signed a "mutual donation" of all that
they had. Ambroise's life was never safe at the wars :
they would make a simpler arrangement of things :
on the death of one of them, the other was to have
everything, and to pay twenty crowns to the bereaved
family. At this time, they had no children.

Their first child, Frangois, was baptised at Saint
Andre, July 4, 1545: the godfathers were Francois
de Villeneuve, physician, and Loys Drouet or Duret,
barber ; the godmother was Jehanne de Prime.
Unhappily for Ambroise and his wife, the child died

164 Ambroise Pare

in a few months ; and for fourteen years there is no
word of another. Then, in 1559, was born a son,
rightly named Isaac, baptised at Saint Andre on
August nth: the godfathers were Antoine Mazelin,
his uncle, and Nicole Lambert, surgeon-in-ordinary
to the King ; the godmother was Anne du Tillet,
wife of Estienne Lallemant, Seigneur de Vouzay.
This child also died, and was buried on August 2,
1560. Then a daughter was born to them, named
Catherine ; baptised at Saint Anc^ 3n 'September 30,
1560: Gaspard Martin, Fare's brother-in-law, was
godfather, and the godmothers were Catherine, wife
of Loys de Prime, Marguerite, whom Estienne
Claret married after the death of Jehanne Mazelin's
mother, and Jehanne de Prime.

Thus Ambroise was more than fifty years old before
he had a child of his own old enough to talk to him,
and he never had a son to follow him ; and Jehanne
remained childless for near fifteen years, with her
husband away at the wars, and her one baby buried
in the parish church. Catherine alone remained to
them ; and she was thirteen years old when her
mother died in 1573.

To console themselves, they helped other people's
children. In July, 1559, Ambroise settled fifteen
livres tournois yearly on Olive Arnoullet, six or seven
years old, daughter of a doctor practising near Eper-

Paris 165

nay. If she died, the annuity was to go to her
brother Christopher, or to the other children. In
October, 1565, having received from the King the
effects of one Jehan Gaultier, Ambroise handed them
over to the dead man's brother, Claude Gaultier, a
wool-carder of Carpentras near Avignon, " a poor
blind man aged sixty years and more, burdened with
four children." But the charity of Ambroise and
Jehanne began at home, with their nephew Bertrand
and their niece Jehanne.

Bertrand Pare was the son of Ambroise's brother
Jehan, the master barber-surgeon at Vitr6 in Brittany,
who died some time before 1 549 ; and Bertrand was
to come to Paris to learn his father's business. In
August, 1549, Ambroise and Jehanne arranged that
at their death, if they died childless, as they then
were, Bertrand should have an annuity of forty livres
tournois, payable also to his heirs after him. Ambroise
took the young man in hand, entered him as a stu-
dent under the rules of the confraternity of Saint
Cosmo, and apprenticed him to an apothecary, Jehan
de Saint Germain. The young man was idle, con-
ceited, and a failure.

Jehanne Pare was the daughter of Ambroise's
other brother Jehan, the chest-maker in the Rue de
la Huchette, by his second wife, Marie de Neufville.
She was six or seven years old when her father

1 66 Ambroise Pare

died, some time before 1560; and that same year
Ambroise and his wife gave her a dowry of five hun-
dred Itvres tournois, to be paid to her when she was
either married or settled. She became both married
and settled ; but this was after Jehanne Mazelin's
death, and therefore belongs to the next chapter.

The " Royal College of Surgeons."

Though a great surgeon, holding one court appoint-
ment after another, may yet keep outside politics,
and indifferent to the rise or fall of those in high
places, he cannot escape the politics of his own pro-
fession; and it was impossible for Ambroise Par6 to
stand apart from the perpetual strife between the
physicians, the surgeons, and the barber-surgeons.

The corporation of barber-surgeons represented the
barber-surgeons, the confraternity of Saint Cosmo rep-
resented the surgeons, and the faculty of medicine rep-
resented the physicians : and these three bodies were
engaged in a sort of triangular duel. Malgaigne gives
the whole history of it, in all its phases, throughout
the length and breadth of France ; but here we are
concerned with it only so far as it affected Ambroise
Par6. From 1541 to 1554, he was a barber-surgeon;
in 1554, he was admitted to the confraternity of Saint
Cosmo, then calling itself, as it were for that occasion
only, the Royal College of Surgeons; in 1567, he

Paris 167

asked to receive supremacy and jurisdiction over the
confraternity, and the faculty successfully opposed
his petition. In 1569, came his controversy with
Julien Le Paulmier, one of the faculty; and in 1575,
when he published the first edition of his collected
works, he began that long conflict with the faculty
which lasted almost to his death in 1590.

In a triangular fight between three institutions all
of venerable antiquity, there must needs be many
lesser skirmishes and side-issues. Something has
been said already about the barber-surgeons ; the
physicians, and their warfare with Par6, belong to
the later years of his life. Between the barber-
surgeons and the physicians, and as it were
trampling on the barber-surgeons to get at the physi-
cians, comes that vigorous and discontented body of
men, the confraternity of Saint Cosmo, or College of
Surgeons of France.

The patron saints of the confraternity, Saint Cosmo
and Saint Damien, who were also the saints of the
barber-surgeons, were two brothers, physicians, born
in Arabia in the third century, and put to death for
the Christian faith. The confraternity was founded
in the thirteenth century, and afterward claimed Saint
Louis as its founder. In 1 3 1 1 , the members received
for their head Jehan Pitard ; in 1372, they got a
charter from the King. About the year 1400, medi-

1 68 Ambroise Pare

aeval Paris had within her walls thirty-one physicians
of the faculty, ten master-surgeons of the confra-
ternity, and about fifty barber-surgeons ; theic con-
flicts were on a small scale, but perpetual. In 1423,
the surgeons obtained an order that none should
practise surgery but themselves ; next year, the bar-
ber-surgeons got their own privileges confirmed, and
the order was set aside ; then the surgeons appealed,
but without success. On September 28, 1424, the
surgeons took an oath not to see any patient with
a barber-surgeon more than once, or at the most for
two visits only ; and raised a special fund for fighting
expenses. In 1436, they appealed for admission to
the privileges of the university ; for these, they had
to pay a heavy price ; they must attend lectures on
surgery given by the physicians of the faculty. In
1438, the barber-surgeons got their privileges re-
newed ; later, came Ollivier le Dain, barber-surgeon
of Louis XL, who had the King's ear ; and, by this
time, the three opposing forces of the profession were
so nearly balanced that for many years there was
something like peace.

In 1470, fresh troubles arose over one Jehan Le
Roy, " operator for the stone, cataract, and incisions,"
who obtained from Louis XL a command that he
should be examined and received into the confra-
ternity. The surgeons declared that the Royal order

Paris 169

was " obreptice, subreptice, incivile et deraisonnable ;"
and they consoled themselves by compelling this un-
invited guest to drop his title, and by passing a reso-
lution that any such " incisor," once examined and
approved by the confraternity, should pay them a
sum of money for every operation he did in Paris.

Unhappy confraternity ; they had, in the common
phrase, jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire.
They found all surgical practice drifting away from
them ; the barber-surgeons took all the minor sur-
gery, such as venesection; and the "incisors" came
into repute for all the special operations. And then
the confraternity, thus left without practice, began
to busy themselves over the invention of medical
treatment for the cure of surgical diseases ; and forth-
with they came into violent collision with that very
heavy body, the faculty of physicians.

In the year 1491, the faculty had started a course
of anatomy lectures for the apprentices of the barber-
surgeons ; and these lectures had been given, to the
great credit of the faculty, not in Latin but in French.
The confraternity opposed themselves to this vulgar
way of teaching ; and the faculty yielded to this ex-
tent, that the lectures were to consist of a reading,
in Latin, from Guy de Chauliac or some such author,
followed by an exposition of him in French. To
avenge themselves on the confraternity, the faculty

170 Ambroise Pard

made a daring raid on surgical territory : they began
giving anatomical demonstrations on the dead body.
This brought another furious protest from the con-
fraternity ; to whom the faculty answered that the
physicians would continue to teach anatomy until
the surgeons left off writing prescriptions. In 1498,
the faculty started the demonstrations again. In
1502, the confraternity said that the faculty might
give the demonstrations, provided only that the pre-
liminary dissections for them were made by surgeons
of the confraternity ; and the faculty answered that
if the confraternity wanted a share of the honour and
glory of the demonstrations, they must pay a third
of the expenses of them.

The confraternity was now fairly caught between
the upper and the nether millstones, between the
physicians and the barber-surgeons. In 1505, the
barber-surgeons began to grind them, slowly, but
exceeding small. The barber-surgeons had hitherto
been called barbers ; now they changed the name of
their corporation, and, as barber-surgeons, received
new privileges from the Crown : an oath, a register,
a registration-fee. The faculty had a hand in the
examination of the barber-surgeons' apprentices ; the
candidates swore to limit themselves to manual sur-
gery, and to abstain from prescribing so much as a
laxative : where drugs were wanted, they would call

Paris 171

in a physician of the faculty, and nobody else. In
return, the faculty continued their valuable lectures
to the apprentices, and made themselves into a sort
of " Medical Defence Union " to protect, at the cost
of the injured party, any master barber-surgeon who
might get into trouble in the exercise of his art.

That same year, 1505, came fresh quarrelling with
the surgeons, because the faculty had examined one
Jacques Bourlon, and had given him the degree of
Master of Surgery, without the approval of the con-
fraternity. In 1507, four surgeons of the confra-
ternity were summoned before the faculty for the
offence of prescribing; and had to swear on the Gos-
pels that they would not so ofTend again. In 1509,
a barber-surgeon, one I'Ecolier, had ventured to do
certain major operations; the confraternity brought
an action against him ; the faculty defended him.
Then the faculty scored one more point : the phys-
icians' lectures were declared compulsory; no surgeon
was to obtain his Master's degree who had not been,
in modern phrase, " signed up " for them. And then,
at last, came a long spell of peace.

I have tried to show, chiefly from Malgaigne's
wealth of details, the perpetual wranglings of all three
guardians of the peace and honour of the profession.
There is nothing heroic about the confraternity.
Take two of their rules, made in 147 1. The first of

172 Ambroise Pare

them refers to the custom of visiting, once a month,
a crowd of poor patients at the doors of the church of
Saint Cosmo, at Luzarches.

1. Those who shall not go to Luzarches during
the octave of SS. Cosmo and Damien shall pay the
same as those who go, without excuse even for the

2. Every master, who has become licentiate at
Paris, but lives outside Paris, is bound to preside in
his turn at the meetings of the confraternity ; and
the day he is president he must pay for bread, wine,
and amusement after vespers, and for the fare next
morning, mutton and salt meats and pies, or fish if it
be a fast-day. . . .

Rules, as Malgaigne says, worthy of a harmony

Nevertheless, to be a Master of Surgery, " chirur-
gien jure k Paris " was to take social rank above the
barber-surgeons, and not far below the faculty ;
and Ambroise Pare was too wise to ignore this fact.
The confraternity, on their side, were eager to
receive into their number the coming man, the King's
friend, to withdraw him from the ranks of the bar-
ber-surgeons, and set him to fight their battles with
the physicians.

It was in 1554, when Pare was forty-four years old,
two years after his appointment to the King, that he

Paris 1 73

was received into the confraternity. The surgeons
were so glad to have him that the proceedings were
somewhat irregular. To get him without delay, the
ordinary time and place of meeting were changed ;
and those to whom he had to make formal application
for admission were chosen from among his friends.
Reapplied on August i8th for leave to pass the pre-
liminary examination ; it was granted. His application
was irregular ; but then he was a man busy at the
Court : " pluribus et multis negotiis aulicis detentus."
He was examined on the 23d, in an informal way, at
the house of the senior examiner, and declared fit to
be examined for the degree of Bachelor. This second
examination was at the Hotel Dieu, on the 27th ;
there were four examiners, and to keep up appear-
ances they solemnly ploughed him. He gave feeble
answers, most inelegantly worded : " questionibus et
chirurgicis problematibus illi objectis, debiliter et
sermone satis barbaro etcorrupto respondit." Then
they found extenuating circumstances, let Estienne
de La Riviere make them an appeal on his behalf,
told him he must learn more Latin and more surgery,
and must make a more regular and formal application
for the higher degrees ; and forthwith gave him the
degree of Bachelor.

On October ist, he asked to be examined for the
degree of Licentiate : a week later he was examined,

174 Ambroise Pare

sustained a disputation, and, " since the King wished
it," was made Licentiate.

On November 5th, the whole confraternity unani-
mously agreed to give him the degree of Master.
On December 17th, it was conferred on him. There
was a solemn function in their church ; the faculty
was duly represented ; bishops, seigneurs, and other
great people were present. He had to read a Latin
thesis, he who had never learned Latin : we know
neither the subject nor the author of it. Next day
he was presented to the Provost of the confraternity,
received his " lettres de maitrise," and took the oath :
" Ego Ambrosius Par^ chirurgus regius et juratus
Parisiis, polliceor me sancte observaturum omnia col-
legii Chirurgorum statuta, meque antequadriennium
non suscepturum jurisdictionis officium nisi a prae-
dicto coUegio dispensatum. Actum die xviii De-
cembris, et anno Domini 1554. Teste meo signo hie
afifixo. A. Par6."

The faculty derided the whole affair; and raked
up the irregularities of it when Par6 came to fight
with them. Here is what Riolan said of it, twenty-
three years later :

" The surgeon is to the physician what the dentist is
to the surgeon. . . . Among surgeons who are ex-
cellent in practice, there are some (everybody knows
whom I mean, without my having to name them) who

Paris 1 75

cannot decline their own names. We have seen them
called from the barber's shop to be Masters of Surgery,
and admitted gratis against the rules, for fear the barbers,
their superior skill being recognised, should put the
college to shame : we have heard them declaiming, in the
prettiest way in the world, the Latin that someone else
had breathed into them, and no more understanding
what they said than school children set to repeat Greek
speeches." ...

Riolan is in the right : the admission of Par6 to
the confraternity was what .^chylus, long before
modern slang was invented, called a " plant." But if
it did Par^ any good, or gave him any pleasure, that
is reason enough to justify it.

Pake's Houses in Paris and Outside it.

Ambroise Par^ was a good man of business, and
the story of his property in Paris proves more than
this : it shows he had a mind ever at rest in the same
surroundings, the "genius loci," a delight in home,
in having his own people close to him. Most of us
move house once, or more than once ; Par^ was bet-
ter pleased to stop in one place, and buy the houses
next to his own, till at last he had a compact block
of property, a little phalanx of adjoining houses,
side by side, or back to back, all within a stone's
throw of Saint Andr6 des Arcs.

He made his first bargain in September, 1550 — the

176 Ambrolse Pare

Maison de La Vache, in the Rue de L'Hirondelle,
and the house at Meudon.* He held the property in
part only ; and got his share of it, a fourth, in ex-
change for a bad debt. Antoine Mazelin, Jehanne's
brother, had owed him, for four and a half years,
eighty gold crowns ; and now Ambroise sold up his
brother-in-law. Ambroise was not the only creditor,
and it seems to have been a family affair, without
any ill-will about it ; for we find Antoine, nine years
later, not only afloat as a government clerk, but
standing godfather to Isaac Pare. The four hold-
ers of the two houses were Ambroise, Jehanne,
Catherine de Prime, wife of Pierre de La Rue, and
the wife of Charles Fournier. These two last were
both of them Jehanne's relations ; the whole thing
was arranged eyi fmnille. Pierre de La Rue lived
close by ; he was a master-tailor ; we shall hear of
him again, and that not to his credit.

The house in the Rue de L'Hirondelle took its
name from the sign of a cow hanging from it. There
v/ere living-rooms, cellar, a little room in the base-
ment, upper rooms, loft, and a courtyard at the back
with two outhouses ; the whole building was roofed
with tiles. In front was the Rue de L'Hirondelle;
to the left, M^ry de Prime, wine-seller ; to the right,

* Rabelais was made cure of Meudon about four months later ;
January 18, 1551.



Ambroise Park's Houses at the Pont Saint-Michel.
(Adapted from Le Paulmier.)

Maison de La Vache, with courtyard behind it.

Maison des Trois Maures, with courtyard behind it, extending
down to the river.

The Viarts' house.

The Gueaux.

The Periers.

Mery de Prime.

Fran5ois Pichonnat.
8. Charles de Paris.

The houses shaded are Ambroise's. The Rue des Augustins is
now the Quai des Grands Augustins.

178 Ambrolse Pard

the Maison des Trois Maures, belonging to the heirs
of the late Jehan Mestreau.

The house at Meudon was in the Rue des Pierres,
at the back of the church ; and Le Paulmier thinks
he has identified No. 9 as the very house. It had
living-rooms front and back, cellar, upper room,
lofts, small rooms, courtyard and garden between
the living-rooms, with a well and a little tiled out-
house ; and a garden at the back, with trees and ar-
bours. In front, was the Rue des Pierres ; the next-
door neighbours were Jehan Berthelmy, Jehan

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