Dr. Lewis was a great favorite with students. He was a man of very lively temperament, fond of old books and young people, open-hearted, free-spoken, an enthusiast in teaching, and especially at home in that apartment of the temple of science where nature is seen in undress, the anthropotomic laboratory, known to common speech as the dissecting-room. He had that quality which is the special gift of the man born for a teacher,--the power of exciting an interest in that which he taught. While he was present the apartment I speak of was the sunniest of studios in spite of its mortuary spectacles. Of the students I met there I best remember James Jackson, Junior, full of zeal and playful as a boy, a young man whose early death was a calamity to the profession of which he promised to be a chief ornament; the late Reverend J. S. C. Greene, who, as the prefix to his name signifies, afterwards changed his profession, but one of whose dissections I remember looking upon with admiration; and my friend Mr. Charles Amory, as we call him, Dr. Charles Amory, as he is entitled to be called, then, as now and always, a favorite with all about him. He had come to us from the schools of Germany, and brought with him recollections of the teachings of Blumenbach and the elder Langenbeck, father of him whose portrait hangs in our Museum. Dr. Lewis was our companion as well as our teacher. A good demonstrator is,--I will not say as important as a good Professor in the teaching of Anatomy, because I am not sure that he is not more important. He comes into direct personal relations with the students,--he is one of them, in fact, as the Professor cannot be from the nature of his duties. The Professor's chair is an insulating stool, so to speak; his age, his knowledge, real or supposed, his official station, are like the glass legs which support the electrician's piece of furniture, and cut it off from the common currents of the floor upon which it stands. Dr. Lewis enjoyed teaching and made his students enjoy being taught. He delighted in those anatomical conundrums to answer which keeps the student's eyes open and his wits awake. He was happy as he dexterously performed the tour de maitre of the old barber-surgeons, or applied the spica bandage and taught his scholars to do it, so neatly and symmetrically that the aesthetic missionary from the older centre of civilization would bend over it in blissful contemplation, as if it were a sunflower. Dr. Lewis had many other tastes, and was a favorite, not only with students, but in a wide circle, professional, antiquarian, masonic, and social.
Dr. Otis was less widely known, but was a fluent and agreeable lecturer, and esteemed as a good surgeon.
I must content myself with this glimpse at myself and a few of my fellow-students in Boston. After attending two courses of Lectures in the school of the University, I went to Europe to continue my studies.
You may like to hear something of the famous Professors of Paris in the days when I was a student in the Ecole de Medicine, and following the great Hospital teachers.
I can hardly believe my own memory when I recall the old practitioners and Professors who were still going round the hospitals when I mingled with the train of students that attended the morning visits. See that bent old man who is groping his way through the wards of La Charity. That is the famous Baron Boyer, author of the great work on surgery in nine volumes, a writer whose clearness of style commends his treatise to general admiration, and makes it a kind of classic. He slashes away at a terrible rate, they say, when he gets hold of the subject of fistula in its most frequent habitat, --but I never saw him do more than look as if he wanted to cut a good dollop out of a patient he was examining. The short, square, substantial man with iron-gray hair, ruddy face, and white apron is Baron Larrey, Napoleon's favorite surgeon, the most honest man he ever saw,--it is reputed that he called him. To go round the Hotel des Invalides with Larrey was to live over the campaigns of Napoleon, to look on the sun of Austerlitz, to hear the cannons of Marengo, to struggle through the icy waters of the Beresina, to shiver in the snows of the Russian retreat, and to gaze through the battle smoke upon the last charge of the red lancers on the redder field of Waterloo. Larrey was still strong and sturdy as I saw him, and few portraits remain printed in livelier colors on the tablet of my memory.
Leave the little group of students which gathers about Larrey beneath the gilded dome of the Invalides and follow me to the Hotel Dieu, where rules and reigns the master-surgeon of his day, at least so far as Paris and France are concerned,--the illustrious Baron Dupuytren. No man disputed his reign, some envied his supremacy. Lisfranc shrugged his shoulders as he spoke of "ce grand homme de 1'autre cots de la riviere," that great man on the other side of the river, but the great man he remained, until he bowed before the mandate which none may disobey. "Three times," said Bouillaud, "did the apoplectic thunderbolt fall on that robust brain,"--it yielded at last as the old bald cliff that is riven and crashes down into the valley. I saw him before the first thunderbolt had descended: a square, solid man, with a high and full-domed head, oracular in his utterances, indifferent to those around him, sometimes, it was said, very rough with them. He spoke in low, even tones, with quiet fluency, and was listened to with that hush of rapt attention which I have hardly seen in any circle of listeners unless when such men as ex-President John Quincy Adams or Daniel Webster were the speakers. I do not think that Dupuytren has left a record which explains his influence, but in point of fact he dominated those around him in a remarkable manner. You must have all witnessed something of the same kind. The personal presence of some men carries command with it, and their accents silence the crowd around them, when the same words from other lips might fall comparatively unheeded.
As for Lisfranc, I can say little more of him than that he was a great drawer of blood and hewer of members. I remember his ordering a wholesale bleeding of his patients, right and left, whatever might be the matter with them, one morning when a phlebotomizing fit was on him. I recollect his regretting the splendid guardsmen of the old Empire,--for what? because they had such magnificent thighs to amputate. I got along about as far as that with him, when I ceased to be a follower of M. Lisfranc.
The name of Velpeau must have reached many of you, for he died in 1867, and his many works made his name widely known. Coming to Paris in wooden shoes, starving, almost, at first, he raised himself to great eminence as a surgeon and as an author, and at last obtained the Professorship to which his talents and learning entitled him. His example may be an encouragement to some of my younger hearers who are born, not with the silver spoon in their mouths, but with the two-tined iron fork in their hands. It is a poor thing to take up their milk porridge with in their young days, but in after years it will often transfix the solid dumplings that roll out of the silver spoon. So Velpeau found it. He had not what is called genius, he was far from prepossessing in aspect, looking as if he might have wielded the sledge-hammer (as I think he had done in early life) rather than the lancet, but he had industry, determination, intelligence, character, and he made his way to distinction and prosperity, as some of you sitting on these benches and wondering anxiously what is to become of you in the struggle for life will have done before the twentieth century has got halfway through its first quarter. A good sound head over a pair of wooden shoes is a great deal better than a wooden head belonging to an owner who cases his feet in calf-skin, but a good brain is not enough without a stout heart to fill the four great conduits which carry at once fuel and fire to that mightiest of engines.
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