William Richards Castle William Roscoe Thayer.

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and care-taking surgeon toiled and toiled, maintaining the cheerfulness
of hope, which alone held death aloof. Such were Uie conditions, when,
halfway down my surgical journey, twenty-five years ago, asepsis dawned,
and slowly, like a summer morning, brought on the perfect day. . • .
Surgery became a joy, i*ecovery was the rule, and death was often not
unjustly ascribed to a failure of technique." Dr. Cheever had been the
receptacle of the traditions of two preceding generations. His grand-
father had served on the privateer Tartar during the Revolution and had
amputated and dressed alone the wounded in a severe engagement which
ended in his capture by the British frigate Belisaritis, His father, Cbarles
A. Cheever, a practitioner in Portsmouth, was a leader in surgery in
that part of the country. A glimpse of surgery of the period is given
in a quotation from a letter of Cheever's father to his father, written in
1840, from Portsmouth, N.H.: " Dear Father: The man at Rye whose
leg I amputated is getting well, although we have had a hard time from
abscesses forming about the thigh. I evacuated at one time from one of
them two quarts of pus by measure."

Although Dr. Cheever did not enter the ranks of the medical pro-
fession until 1868, he had already assisted his father at surgical opera-
tions even before anaesthesia had come into use. Like all of his contempo-
raries he began as a general practitioner and remained a family doctor
throughout his whole period of service. On the opening of the Boston
City Hospital in 1864, he was appointed surgeon to that institution. Thus,
at the age of 33, and but a few years after beginning practice, he was
called upon to assume all the responsibilities of service to a great metro-
politan hospital just at a period when septic surgery had reached its high-

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1916.] David Williams Cheever. 629

water mark. Of these times he speaks thas: '^Pysemiawas a terrible
scourge ; many perished. The fortitade and patience of the pre-aseptic
group of surgeons in both our large hospitals was something to be proud

But Dr. Cheever was made of too stem stuff to be daunted by even
such obstacles as these, and had within him faith to feel that difficulties
could be oTeroome, and that quality indispensable in those days — cour-
age to act Of these times he says again : ^' The old-school surgeon hesi-
tated and pondered and considered long and took the step of last resort
when he operated on a kidney or a bladder. The modem, in the armor
of asepsis, emerges unscathed from most perils. Can you, modem doctor,
realize the difference? No, you cannot Your whole life, your conscience
almost, is overgrown and hardened by asepsis."

Ovariotomy was taboo when he entered on his duties at the hospital,
and orthodox surgery, in Boston at least, regarded it as unjustifiable ;
acrimonious discussion had followed the attempts of pioneers to give it a
place in surgery. Young Cheever was, however, undeten*ed by such con-
ditions, and records not only successful cases, but even Caesarian section,
the first operation of its kind, he stated, in this community. Among the
operations which he justly refers to with pride, with which his name is
intimately associated, is the operation of oesophagotomy. This operation
was, in the early days, replete with danger ; but many a foreign body was
successfully removed from the gullet by him and life saved in this way. His
operation for plastic resection of the upper jaw, to open a path to deep-
seated tumors at the base of the skull, was among the first of that class.
To open the windpipe of a child gasping for breath in the last stages of
diphtheria required an iron nerve and a steady hand — just the qualities
that Cheever possessed. During one winter hospital service he was called
in the night sixteen times to do tracheotomy.

When the great change came in the early seventies and surgery became
safe, Cheever was already well advanced in his career. He did not, how-
ever, follow the example of one of his predecessors, of whom he once
said, " he was conservative : he refused to be moved by the times," but
joined discreetly and resolutely in what he termed the struggles upward
from sepsis to asepsis. The young surgeon of today, to the manner bora,
has but little conception of the anxieties that beset the leaders of the pro-
fession at that critical period. The junior members looked to their seniors
to lead the way, but all were equally ignorant. Experience had to be ac-
cumulated all over again in the new field. It was a unique moment in
the history of surgery.

Turning now from the surgeon's clinic to the standing of the medical
profession of his day, we find him commenting thus : " When I began

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630 David Williams Cheeter. [June,

practice in 1858 the medical atmotphere was deddedlyobseareyinirtj. . . •
Distrust of the preceding period of hleeding and yiolent remedies and the
absence of any new method of treatment led to an inaetiTe-do-nothing-
policy. . . . There were no specialties. . . . The woman doctor was
barely in evidence. . . . Osteopathy and Christian Science were reserved
to vex the doctor of a later day. Surgery became to me the more at-
tractive part of my profession because it was phun work compared to
medicine ; because its results were to be seen, right or wrong ; because I,
perhaps, inherited a surgical leaning." Of the modem nurse, he thus
speaks : *' She is well trained, but she must retain and be able to use her
knowledge, be quick and ready, be modest and kind. If she is not all this,
she is a nuisance, an encumbrance, and she will faiL" Of the fast disap-
pearing personality of old-time medical practice, he says: ^'Formerly
there was a family physician whose patients retained him as a familial*
and much-used fixture until he died. Now he shares a family with others
and he does not look on any person as his patient for life. This is a
greater loss to the community than to the doctor. We regret, but we yield
to these revolutions."

As President of the Massachusetts Medical Society he served as a wise
counselor in matters concerning the welfare of' his professional brethren
and was often an active participator in all that pertained to legislation
bearing upon the health and well-being of the community.

The registration of practitioners and the relation of different sects in
medicine were themes of fruitful controversy that engaged their full share
of his attention, as did also the downfall of the coroner's system and the
establishment of tiie medical examiners, a change of enormous advantage,
from a medico-legal point of view, in which Massachusetts took a leading
part. Of that much-vexed question, the ethics of medical expert testimony,
he has, as usual, a way of disposing of the situation in laconic phrase.
^' I can almost say tiiat I never left the court, after testifying, with a feel-
ing of honorable satisfaction, or that I had been allowed to tell the exact
truth." He was a warm advocate for privileged medical communications
and wrote and argued in their favor.

The chapter in his book on '^ Medicine as a Trade and Medicine as a
Profession *' deserves to be read by erery aspirant for a medical degi'ee.
The former deals vigorously with the young doctor ^^ who is committing
pecuniary suicide almost every day he is practising medicine." The latter
is replete with good advice as to the confidential relation of physicians to
patients. ^' We should treat our patients always as our nearest friends
and should preserve their secrets so far as the law will allow us." He
tells his young pupils that the future is full of hope and bids them '* ad-
vance firmly and with a confident heart, still holding fast to that which

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1916.] David Williams Cheever. 631

is good. The magnet does not yibrate. The son and the stars are eternal
in their courses. Nothing can deflect from his coarse him who studies,
hopes, belieyes, works."


My earliest recollections of Dr. Cheerer date back to a period long
before I had ever thought of studying medicine. It was on the occasion
of a professional visit to Portsmouth that my father had entrusted me, a
boy, to the care of the young man who had just returned from his gradu-
ation at Harvard. I can still recall ihe tall and slender youth who, later
in the day, for the delectation of his guests, appeared in the costume of a
Puritan in which he was to attend some social or civic function. Since
the curtain of menioiy first fell on this little episode, the recollection of
the grave and dignified young graduate has frequently come back to me
in later years as a sort of prologue to the future relations — an eTitente
cordials — which were happily preserved in after life between teacher
and pupil, and to the r6le which this representative of fine old New Eng-
land stock was to play in the interesting medical drama soon to be placed
upon the stage.

' Ten years and more had elapsed before I again came in contact with
Dr. Cheever. As Demonstrator of Anatomy he had charge of the per-
sonal instruction of the students under the supervision of Oliver Wendell
Holmes. Of Holmes Cheever says : ^* Wit, gentleness, keenness of intel-
lect made Dr. Holmes a delightful master." Contrasted with the breezy
ways of his senior were the quiet and business-like methods of the taciturn
young man.

Cheever was a popular teacher, for, though his manner often seemed
cold and reserved, there was always a feeling of perfect confidence felt by
the class in the justness of his decisions. To the close of his career as a'
teacher he retained a tender interest in the welfare of his pupils, as is
shown in the foundation at the time of his retirement of the Cheever
Scholarship (the first of its kind) for young men entering the Medical

There was no one of the surgical staff at the School who could compare
with him as a lecturer. Dr. Bigelow*s personality had always contributed
largely to the prestige of the surgical department and his course of lectures
were characteristically punctuated by one or two interesting or brilliant
episodes, with which that distinguished teacher knew only too well how
to garnish them. But Cheever's lectures were marked by a clockwork-like
precision, by which the g^round laid out beforehand was covered systemati-
cally from beginning to end. A cool and clear head, a reposeful manner
showing the speaker to be perfectly at his ease, a well-modulated voice and

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632 Dmid Williams Cheecer. [Jane,

simplicity of diction combined to enable him to hold the attention of his
class from start to finish. Lasting proof in the accuracy of this statement
is given in Uiat admirable book containing his published course of lectures,
which were taken down verbatim by the stenographer and printed subse-
quently almost as a phonographic record.

This quality as a teacher enabled him to shine conspicuously at the
bedside in clinical instruction. I well recall certain Sunday morning
visits at the City Hospital which I had the privilege of attending. They
were models of what such visits should be. No extraneous matter was
injected into these talks. There was no wandering from the point which each
particular case illustrated. Our relations on the teaching staff were always
regarded by me as leaving nothing to be desired. The elder man always
took a sympathetic interest in his junior's welfare. No occasion calling for
a word of encouragement or congratulation was ever passed unnoticed ;
and if criticism was necessary, it was always skilfully concealed under the
guise of a fatherly suggestion. I have often wondered whether the cur-
rent of academic waters flowed as smoothly in other departments of the
Univer^ty as they did in ouis while he was chief. Perhaps it was be-
cause his depth of character brought a serenity with it which permeated
the whole staff, one and all of whom were glad to acknowledge him as
their leader.

Through all the period which I have attempted to cover in the course
of tills personal sketeh, the estimate of the man which had impressed
itself so forcibly on the child still seemed to hold true. In whatever rdle
he might appear in after life, either as the bold surgeon or the unflinching
leader in a good cause, or the quiet gentleman in sombre clothing on his
daily rounds, I seemed still to see the garb which was so typical of his
ancestry and his character. And when, at the recent Convocation of the
American College of Surgeons, the honorary' degree of the college was
conferred upon him, and I saw him for the last time, in the robe of the
order, he seemed to me to have come into his own again. The sombre
folds of the academic gown served as a fitting setting to the grave and in-
tellectual features of the man, and while, during a pause in the proceedings
arranged to allow him to retire, he passed slowly down the aisle, leaning
upon a proffered arm, his assembled colleagues rose as one man to do
him honor as a recognized leader in their chosen profession.

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1916.] Secsnt Biographies. 633


Charles Francis Adams : An AiUobiography. With an Introduction by
Henry Cabot Lodge, 71. Boston : Houghton Mifiiiu Co.

'^ Though in no way remarkable, I see now that I was, and am still,
individual. I don*t see things, and take things, quite in the usual and
average way." This sentence gives the keynote to a remarkable volume.
The style is virile and direct, its substance is critical and historical, it
contains penetrating examination of self and contemporaries — a weighing
of ability and of circumstance in the light of varied and matured experi*
ence. It is at once a ^^ confession," a true autobiography, and a literary
and historical product. Nothing escapes a challenge — family, schools,
college, associates in military and administrative service, social inter-
course and political controversy — all pass in review and judgment is
pronounced in unmistakable language. These judgments are far from the
commonplace, being those of a mind trained to observe and to judge. If
there is a sustained note of depreciation of self, of severity towards others,
and of disappointment in performance, this quality is wholesomely cor-
rected by the record of what the man really accomplished and by the
keen enjoyment he derived from a life of constant activity. It is not a
morbid note, yet not untinged with sadness. The few who were privileged
to enjoy his intimacy know the downright sincerity of his mind, and will
make allowance for what appears extreme opinions.

Mr. Adams inherited much — family renown and qualities. New Eng-
land characteristics — and during life he added much to his inheritance.
For more than forty years he was in public prominence, building up repu-
tation in railroad management, in town direction, in educational reforms,
in the writing of history and in the discussion of public questions. What-
ever he undertook was marked by a certain largeness and breadth of
view, constituting a source of streng^th. At times impatient at details and
at the inaptitude of others, he saw his plans suspended, even set aside.
Yet it was on the whole a career of great usefulness and success, and, as
he admits, it brought him a greater sum of happiness than was enjoyed
by any one of his forbears. He measures his misfortunes as evenly as his
good fortune, and in distributing the rewards and penalties is more apt
to take upon himself the blame for failing to secure all possible success.
It is rare to find a man so capable of looking at his acts from the outside,
in so detached a manner.

On the main influences of his life he is frankly critical. He regards his
education as wrong ; he matured slowly and thought himself wanting in
social faculty. His first years after leaving college were not productive, but

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634 Itecent Biographies. [Jone,

army service gave him much needed knowledge of self and others. Brought
np in an atmosphere of politics his observation and associations developed
him, and he early began to write npon political quesdons and record his
impressions of public characters. From this he became interested in his-
tory, especially in the history of the Qnincy region. He also made a mark
in biography. Unsupported by public office or party recognition, he won
a national reputation for independence and civic duty. Tliis is the story
of the '^ Autobiography," told in straightforward terms, without assertive-
ness or nnkindness. He describee himself as self-confident in hisyoath, and
this was corrected in part by self-consciousness. To a resulting shyness he
attributes his inability to seize upon opportunity and make it fruitful In
all this he reminds one of John Quincy Adams, but without the life of
strenuous controversy which gave the older man such a position in his
day. Nothing could be more characteristic of Mr. Adams than his service
to Harvard College — unselfish and leavening. For twenty-four years an
Overseer, he recognised to the full his obligation to that institution. It
is as a vivid personality that he will be remembered, and this '' Autobiog-
raphy " shows why he is to be remembered as a true son of New Eng-
land, representing the best of her qualities.

Worihington Ckauneey Ford, A.M. '07.

Union Portraits, by Gamaliel Bradford ['86]. Boston : Houghton Mifflin
Co. Cloth, 12mo, portraits.

This volume is the counterpart of the Confederate Portraits which
Mr. Bradford brought out two years ago. These two volumes and his
life of Robert E. Lee give Mr. Bradford a distinguished place among
contemporary writers on the American Civil War. He has been happy
in taking for his province the biographical rather than the already over-
done political and military side of the subject : for in the long run it is
the great figures in such an historical crisis who live in the popular mem-
ory, and Mr. Bradford's sketches cannot fail to deepen some of the lines
which finally make np the composite portraits of the Confederate and
Union leaders. These composites are usually all that posterity requires.

Mr. Bradford portrays five generals — McClellan, Hooker, Meade,
Thomas, and Sherman — and four civilians — Stanton, Seward, Sum-
ner, and Samuel Bowles. His purpose is not to narrate briefly the careers
of his subjects, but to assemble the elements — physical, intellectual, and
moral — which, in combination, made np the personality of each soldier
or statesman. Having read his inventory of Meade, for instance, you
should be prepared, when you take up the history of the war, for the part
Meade plays there. Mr. Bradford manages the process of assembling
with much skill, and hb aptness in quoting representative sayings by or

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1916.] Secent Biographies. 685

about each of his heroes resnlto in an almost unmatched collection of ver-
dicts and opinions.

His most conspicuous trait is fairness. He is bent on knowing the exact
truth — not the truth which varies according to latitude, North or South,
like the mariner's compass. He does not seek to win empty applause for
the specious impartiality achieved by those who sterilize their judgment.
He has his preferences : but it would be difficult to discover that his own
Union convictions have influenced his opinion of the individual Unionists
and Confederates whom he discusses.

In a short notice like this, the reviewer cannot criticize the *' Por-
traits " in detail. Perhaps Mr. Bradford lets McClellan off too kindly,
making too little of McClellan's intrigues with Copperhead Democrats,
and ignoring the plea that McClellan pretended to believe that he had a
divine mission to end the war without bloodshed. Hooker also fares
unexpectedly well. The sketch of Sherman, judged by a purely literary
standard, is the best of all. Sumner, on the other hand, hardly gets his

Mr. Bradford is preoccupied to have his *' Portraits " called ^^ Psycho-
graphs," as if they were something new in biography and therefore
needed a new name. In truth, however, Plutarch was a master in " Psy-
chography," and Tacitus, in Agricolay was a not unsuccessful practi-
tioner of the art some eighteen centuries ago. Amoug modems and con-
temporaries we find many noteworthy examples. Mr. Bradford himself
has studied Sainte-Beuve and the later subtle Frenchmen to good pur-
pose. Fortunately, he cannot restrict his portraits to an inventory of the
psychical contents or make-up of his heroes : if he could, the result would
be as dead as the obituaries in the proceedings of learned societies. But
life is dynamic, not passive, and only through action can character, or
the psyche (if you prefer the cant of the day), reveal itself. The sum of
a man's qualities, described as completely as possible, would not give us
the man himself. Mr. Bradford's genuine interest in life as action, com-
pels him constantly to pass beyond the narrow ^^ psychographio " bounds
which he set himself. Hence the value of his book.

W. E. Thayer, '81.

Theodore BooeeveU; the Logic of his Career^ by C« 6. Washburn, '80.

Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co.

At the conclusion of his second term as President of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt had two courses open to him. He might retire defi-
nitely from public life, secure in his position as the ^' First American,"
sure, in the fulness of time, to be forgiven by those who considered that
he had injured them, beloved by those who appreciated his fearless

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686 Becent Biographies. [Jane,

straggle for hunuui freedom, honored by the whole world for his solid
achieyements, especially in the preservation of peace ; or, with nothing
farther to gain and much to lose, he might once more enter the political
arena. His eager and aggressive character, as shown in his past history,
made it inevitable that he should take the latter eoorse if any crisis
should arise in which he felt tliat he might be of service to the country.
Sach a crisis occurred in 1912, and Mr. Roosevelt, after onsaccessfnlly
urging the Republican Party to accept as part of its doctrine his plans
of social legislation, appeared as the standard bearer of a new par^.
People said — many Harvard men who knew him said — that love of
notoriety, personal ambition, and nothing else, induced him to organixe
the Progressive Party. He was defeated ; Mr. Taft was overwhelmed.
^' Stand-pat " Republicans cried out that he had delivered the nation
into the hands of the enemy, failing to recognize that, even without a
third party, Mr. Taft could hardly have been elected. When loud talkers
got together Mr. Roosevelt bore all the blame; but very many knew,
even then, that Democratic victory came because, rightly or wrongly, the
great mass of the people believed that the Republican platform was not
built to secure social justice, that it faced the past instead of the future.

If Mr. Washburn's book had been published in 1913, the supporters
of Mr. Roosevelt would have said that it understated the trutli, and his
opponents would have called it the amiable fiction of hero-worship. Both
sides were too bitter to think straight. But passions cool, and calm judg^
ment is able to admit more than one explanation. Today the book will
serve a very useful purpose in pointing out to those who can reason that
personal ambition does not furnish the true '^ logic of Roosevelt's career."
Time after time he has accepted positions which would seem to dose,
and, by the professional politicians, were meant to close his career. Time
after time he has done his inconspicuous work so fearlessly and so con-
spicuously well that the people have forced the politicians to bring him
out from his obscurity. He has repeatedly championed unpopular causes,
among which his advocacy of the recall of judges and of judicial decisions
— an attempt at honest reform, but a dangerous and misunderstood method
of reform — is probably the best remembered and the one which cost him
the most votes. This characteristic of supporting unpopular measures
merely because he believed them to be right makes him, of course, a dan-
gerous man in the eyes of those who guide the party machine, because it
prevents him from being a purely party man. It made him the inevitable
choice, as leader, of those who believed that they were working for a
finer, cleaner America-— for to deny honesty of purpose to the majority
of Plrog^essives would be absurd. They, like their leader, were traitors
to the Republican Party, but only because they believed that to remain

Online LibraryWilliam Richards Castle William Roscoe ThayerThe Harvard graduates' magazine → online text (page 86 of 103)