A charming theme—The new tints—An almost perfect descriptive system—An unassailable position—The silver mounting of the newspaper staff—An unfair correspondcnt—A lady journalist face to face—The play-hawkers Only in two acts—An earnest correspondent—A haven at last—Well-earned repose—The “health columns”—Answers to correspondents—Other medical advisers—The annual meeting—The largest consultation on record over one patient—He recovers!—A garden-party—A congenial locale—The distinguished Teuton—The local medico—Brain “sells”—A great physician—Advice to a special correspondent—Change of air—The advantages of travel—The divergence of opinion among medical men—It is due to their conscientiousness.

AS this rambling volume does not profess to be a guide to the newspaper press, I have not felt bound to follow any beaten track in its compilation. But I must confess that at the outset it was my intention to deal with that agreeable phase known as the Lady Journalist. Unhappily (or perhaps I should say, happily), “the extreme pressure on our space” will not permit of my giving more than a line or two to a theme which could only be adequately treated in a large volume. It has been my privilege to meet with three lady journalists, and I am bound to say that every one of the three seemed to me to combine in herself all the judgment of the trained journalist (male) with the lightness of touch which one associates with the doings of the opposite sex. All were able to describe garments in picturesque phrases, frequently producing by the employment of a single word an effect that a “gentleman journalist”—this is, I suppose, the male equivalent to a lady journalist—could not achieve at any price. They wrote of ladies being “gowned,” and they described the exact tint of the gowns by an admirable process of comparison with the hue of certain familiar things. They rightly considered that the mere statement that somebody came to somebody else’s “At Home” in brown, conveys an inadequate idea of the colour of a costume: “postman’s bag brown,” however, brings the dress before one’s eye in a moment. To say that somebody’s daughter appeared in a grey wrap would sound weak-kneed, but a wrap of eau de Tamise is something stimulating. A scarlet tea-jacket merely suggests the Book of Revelation, but a Clark-Russell-sunset jacket is altogether different.

They also wrote of “picture hats,” and “smart frocks,” and many other matters which they understood thoroughly. I do not think that any newspaper staff that does not include a lady journalist can hope for popularity, or for the respect of those who read what is written by the lady journalist, which is much better than popularity. I have got good reason to know that in every newspaper with which I was associated, the weekly column contributed by the lady journalist was much more earnestly read than any that came from another source.

Yes, I feel that the position of the lady in modern journalism is unassailable; and the lady journalists always speak pleasantly about one another, and occasionally describe each other’s “picture hats.”

In brief, the lady journalist is the silver mounting of the newspaper staff.

I once, however, received an application from a lady, offering a weekly letter on a topic already, I considered, ably dealt with by another lady in the columns of the newspaper with which I was connected. I wrote explaining this to my correspondent, and by the next post I got a letter from her telling me that of course she was aware that a letter purporting to be on this topic was in the habit of appearing in the paper, but expressing the hope that I did not fancy that she would contribute “stuff of that character.”

I did not have the faintest hope on the subject.

Now it so happened that the lady who wrote to me had some months before gone to the lady whose weekly letters she had derided, and had begged from her some suggestions as to the topics most suitable to be dealt with by a lady journalist, and whatever further hints she might be pleased to offer on the general subject of lady journalism. In short, all that she had learned of the profession—it may be acquired in three lessons, most young women think—she had learned from the lady at whom she pointed a finger of scorn.

This I did not consider either ladylike or journalist-like, so that I can hardly consider it lady-journalist-like.

Lady journalists have recently taken to photographing each other and publishing the results.

This is another step in the right direction.

Once I had an opportunity of talking face to face with a lady journalist. It happened at the house of a distinguished actress in London. By the merest chance I had a play which I felt certain would suit the actress, and I went to make her acquainted with the joyful news. To my great chagrin I found that I had arrived on a day when she was “receiving.” Several literary men were present, and on some of their faces.

I thought I detected the hang-dog look of the man who carries a play about with him without a muzzle. I regret to say that they nearly all looked at me with distrust.

I came by chance upon one of them speaking to our charming hostess behind a portiere.

“I think the part would suit you down to the ground.” he was saying. “Yes, six changes of dress in the four acts, and one of them a ballroom scene.”

I walked on.

Ten minutes afterwards I overheard a second, who was having a romp with our hostess’s little girl, say to that lady,—

“Oh, yes, I am very fond of children, when they are as pretty as Pansy here. By the way, that reminds me that I have in my overcoat pocket a comedy that I think will give you a chance at last. If you will allow me when those people go....”

I passed on.

“The piece I brought with me is very strong. You were always best at tragedy, and I have frequently said that you are the only woman in London who can speak blank verse,” were the words that I heard spoken by the third literary gentleman at the further side of a group of palms on a pedestal.

I thought it better not to say anything about my having a play concealed about my person. It occurred to me that it might be well to withhold my good news for a day or two. Meantime I had a delightful chat with the lady journalist, and confided in her my belief that some of the literary men present had not come for the sake of the intellectual treat available at every reception of our hostess’s, but solely to try and palm off on her some rubbish in the way of a play.

She replied that she could scarcely believe that any man could be so base, and that she feared I was something of a cynic.

When she was bidding good-bye to our hostess I distinctly heard the latter say,—

“I am sorry that you have only made it in two acts; however, you may depend on my reading it carefully, and doing what I can with it for you.”

The above story might be looked on as telling against myself in some measure, so I hasten to obviate its effect by mentioning that the play which I had in my pocket was acted by the accomplished lady for whom I designed it, and that it occupied a dignified place among the failures of the year.

There was a lady journalist—at least a lady so describing herself—who sent me long accounts of the picture shows three days after I had received the telegraphed accounts from the art correspondent employed by the newspaper. She wanted to get a start, she said; and it was in vain that I tried to point out to her that it was the other writers who got the start of her, and that so long as she allowed this to happen she could not expect anything that she wrote to be inserted.

It so happened, however, that her art criticisms were about on a level with those that a child might pass upon a procession of animals to or from a Noah’s Ark. Then the lady forwarded me criticisms of books that had not been sent to me for review, and afterwards an interview or two with unknown poets. Nothing that she wrote was worth the space it would have occupied.

Only last year I learned with sincere pleasure that this energetic lady had obtained a permanent place on the staff of a lady’s halfpenny weekly paper. I could not help wondering on what department she could have been allowed to work, and made some inquiry on the subject. Then it was I learned that she had been appointed superintendent of the health columns. It seems that the readers of this paper are sanguine enough to expect to get medical advice of the highest order in respect of their ailments for the comparatively trilling expenditure of one halfpenny weekly. By forwarding a coupon to show that they have not been mean enough to try and shirk payment of the legitimate fee, they are entitled to obtain in the health columns a complete reply as to the treatment of whatever symptoms they may describe. As this reply is seldom printed in the health columns until more than a month or six weeks after the coupon has been sent in to the newspaper, addressed “M.D.,” the extent of the boon that it confers upon the suffering—the long-suffering—subscribers can easily be estimated.

As the superintendent of the column signed “M.D.,” the lady who had failed as an art critic, as a reviewer, and as an interviewer, had at last found a haven of rest. Of course, when she undertook the duties incidental to the post she knew nothing whatever of medicine. But since then, my informant assured me that she had been gradually “feeling her way,” and now, by the aid of a half-crown handbook, she can give the best medical advice that can be secured in all London for a halfpenny fee.

I had the curiosity to glance down one of her columns the other day. It ran something like this:—

“Gladys.—Delighted to hear that you like your new mistress, and that the cook is not the tyrant that your last was. As scullery-maid I believe you are entitled to every second evening out. But better apply (enclosing coupon) to the Superintendent of the Domestic Department. Regarding the eruptions on the forehead, they may have been caused by the use of too hot curling tongs on your fringe. Why not try the new magnetic curlers? (see advertisement, p. 9). It would be hard to be compelled to abandon so luxurious a fringe for the sake of a pimple or two. Thanks for your kind wishes. Your handwriting is striking, but I must have an impression of your palm in wax, or on a piece of paper rubbed with lamp-black, before I can predict anything certain regarding your chances of a brilliant marriage.”

“Airy Fairy Lilian.—What a pretty pseudonym! Where did you contrive to find it? Yes, I think that perhaps the doctor who visited you was right after all. The symptoms were certainly those of typhoid. Have you tried the new Omniherbal Typhoid Tablets (see advertisement, p. 8). If not too late they might be of real service to you.”

“Harebell.—I should say that if your waist is now forty-two inches, it would be extremely imprudent for you to try and reduce it by more than ten or eleven inches. Besides, there is no beauty in a wasp-like waist. The slight redness on the outside tegument of the nose probably proceeds from cold, or most likely heat. Try a little poudre des fées (see advertisement, p. 9).”

“Shy Susy.—It is impossible to answer inquiries in this column in less than a month. (1) If your tooth continues to ache, why not go to Mr. Hiram P. Prosser, American Dental Surgeon (see advertisement, p. 8), and have it out. (2) The best volume on Etiquette is by the Countess of D. It is entitled ‘How to Behave’ (see advertisement outside cover). (3) No; to change hats in the train does not imply a promise to marry. It would, however, tell against the defendant in the witness-box. (4) Decidedly not; you should not allow a complete stranger to see you to your door, unless he is exceptionally good-looking. (5) Patchouli is the most fashionable scent.”

I do not suppose that this enterprising young woman is an honoured guest at the annual meeting of the British Medical Association. Certainly no lady superintendent of the health columns of a halfpenny weekly paper was pointed out to me at the one meeting of this body which I had the privilege of attending, and at which, by the way, some rather amusing incidents occurred.

An annual, meeting of the British Medical Association seemed to me to be a delightful function. For some days there were fêtes (with fireworks), receptions (with military bands playing), dances (with that exhilarating champagne that comes from the Saumur districts), excursions to neighbouring ruins of historic interest, and the common or garden-party in abundance. In addition to all these, a rumour was circulated that papers were being read in some out-of-the-way hall—no one seemed to know where it was situated, and the report was generally regarded as a hoax—on modern therapeutics, for the entertainment of such visitors as might be interested in the progress of medical science.

No one seemed interested in that particular line.

A concert took place one evening, and was largely attended, every seat in the building being occupied. The local amateur tenor—the microbe of this malady has not yet been discovered—sang with his accustomed throaty incorrectness, and immediately afterwards there was a considerable interval. Then the conductor appeared upon the platform and said that an unfortunate accident had happened to the gentleman who had just sung, and he should feel greatly obliged if any medical gentleman who might chance to be present would kindly come round to the retiring room.

It seemed to me that the audience rose en masse and trooped round to the retiring room. I was one of the few persons who remained in the hall.

“Say, why didn’t some strong man throw himself between the audience and the door?” a stranger shouted across the hall to me in an American accent.

“With what object?” I shouted back.

“Wal,” said the stranger, “I opine that if this community is subject to such visitations as we have just had from that gentleman who sang last, his destruction should be made a municipal affair.”

“We know what we’re about,” said I. “How would you like to look up and find two hundred and forty-seven fully qualified medical men standing by your bed-side.”

“Not much,” said he.

“I wonder if the story of the opossum that was up a gum tree, and begged a military man beneath not to fire, as he would come down, had reached the States before you left,” said I.

He said he hadn’t heard tell of it.

“Well,” said I, “there was an opossum——”

But here the hall began to refill, and the concert was proceeded with. The sufferer had recovered, we heard, in spite of all that was against him. A humorist said that he had merely slipped from a ladder in endeavouring to reach down his high C.

When he was told that he had to pay two hundred and forty-seven guineas for medical attendance he nearly had a relapse.

It was at the same meeting of the Medical Association that a garden-party was given by the Superintendent of the District Lunatic Asylum. This was a very pleasant affair, and was attended by about five hundred persons. A detestable man who was present, however, thought fit to make an effort to give additional spirit to the entertainment by pointing out to some of his friends the short, ungainly figure of a German savant, who was wandering about the grounds in a condition of loneliness, and by telling a story of a homicide of a bloodcurdling type, to account for the gentleman’s presence at the institution.

The jester gave free expression to his doubts as to the wisdom of the course adopted by the medical superintendent in permitting such freedom to a man who was supposed to be confined during Her Majesty’s pleasure,—this was, he said, because of the merciful view taken by the jury before whom he had been tried. He added, however, that he supposed the superintendent knew his own business.

As this story circulated freely, the German doctor, whose appearance and dress undoubtedly lent it a certain plausibility, became easily the most attractive person in view. Young men and maidens paused in the act of “service” over the lawn tennis nets, to watch the little man whose large eyes stared at them from beneath a pair of shaggy eyebrows, and whose ill-cut grey frieze coat suggested the uniform of the Hospital for the Insane. Strong men grasped their walking sticks more firmly as he passed, and women, well gowned, and wearing picture hats—I trust I am not infringing the copyright of the lady journalist—drew back, but still gazed at him with all the interest that attaches itself to a great criminal in the eyes of women.

The little man could not but feel that he was attracting a great deal of attention; but being probably well aware of his own attainments, he did not shrink from any gaze, but smiled complacently on every side. Then a local medical man, whose self-confidence had never been known to fail him in an emergency, thought that the moment was an auspicious one for exhibiting the extent of his researches in cerebral phenomena, beckoned the German to his side, and, removing the man’s hat, began to prove to the bystanders that the shape of his head was such as precluded the possibility of his playing any other part in the world but that of a distinguished homicide. But the German, who understood English very well, as he did everything else, turned at this point upon the local practitioner and asked him what the teuffil he meant.

“Don’t be alarmed, ladies,” said the practitioner assuringly, as there was a movement among his audience. “I know how to treat this form of aberration. Now then, my good man——”

But at this moment a late arrival in the form of a great London surgeon strolled up accompanied by the medical superintendent of the Asylum, and with an exclamation of pleasure, pounced upon the subject of the discourse and shook him warmly by the hand. The Teuton was, however, by no means disposed to overlook the insult offered to him. He explained in the expressive German tongue what had occurred, and any one could see that he was greatly excited.

But Sir Gregory, the English surgeon, had probably some experience of cases like this. He put his hand through the arm of the German, and then giving a laugh that in an emergency might obviate the use of a lancet, he said loudly enough to be heard over a considerable area,—

“Come along, my dear friend; there is no visiting an hospital for the insane without coming across a lunatic,—a medical practitioner without discretion is worse.”

The local physician was left standing alone on the lawn.

He shortly afterwards went home.

If you wish to anger him now you need only talk about brain “sells.”

At the same meeting it was my privilege to be presented to a really great London physician. He was the medical gentleman who was consulted by a special correspondent on his return from making a tour with the Marquis of Lome, when the latter became Viceroy of Canada. The special correspondent had left for Canada on the very day that he arrived in England from the Cape, having gone through the Zulu campaign, and he had reached the Cape direct from the Afghan war. After about two years of these experiences he felt run down, and acting on the suggestion of a friend, lost no time in consulting the great physician.

On learning that the man was suffering from a curious impression of weariness for which he could not account, but which he had tried in vain to shake off, the great physician asked him what was his profession. He replied that he was a literary man—that he wrote for a newspaper.

“Ah, I thought so,” cried the great physician. “Your complaint is easily accounted for. I perceived in a moment that you had been leading a sedentary life. That is what plays havoc with literary men. What you need just now is a complete change—no half measures, mind you—a complete change—a sea voyage would brace you up, or,—let me see—ah, yes, Margate might do. Try a fortnight at Margate.”

I am bound to say that it was another doctor who, when a naval captain who had been in charge of a corvette on the South Pacific station for five years, went to him for advice, gravely remarked,—

“I wonder, sir, if at any time of your life you got a severe wetting?”

The modern physician is most earnest in recommending changes of air and scene and employment. He is an enemy to the drug system. But the last enemy that shall be destroyed is the drug system. The “masses” believe in it as they believe no other system, whether in medicine, religion, or even gambling.

I shall never forget the ring of contempt that there was in the voice of a servant of mine at the Cape, when, on the army surgeon’s giving him a prescription to be made up, he found that the whole thing only cost fourpence, and he said,—

“That there coor can’t be much of a coor, sir; only corst fourpence, and me ready to pay ‘arf-a-crown.”

In the smoking-room of an hotel in Liverpool some years ago a rather self-assertive gentleman was dilating to a group in a cosy corner on the advantages of travel, not merely as a physical, but as an intellectual stimulant.

“Am I right, sir?” he cried, turning to me. “Have you ever travelled?”

I mentioned that I had done a little in that way.

“Where do you come from now, sir?” he asked.

“South America,” said I meekly.

“And you, sir,” he cried, turning to another stranger; “have you travelled?”

“Well, a bit,” replied the man. “I was in ‘Frisco this day fortnight, and I’ll be in Egypt on this day week.”

“I knew by the look of those gentlemen that they had travelled,” said the loud man, turning to his group. “I believe in the value of travel. I travel myself—just like those gentlemen. Yes; a week ago I was at Bradford. Here I am at Liverpool to-day, and Heaven knows where I may be next week—at Manchester, may be.”

So far as I can gather, the impression seems to be pretty general that some divergence of opinion is by no means impossible among physicians in their diagnosis of a case. Doctors themselves seem to have at last become aware of the fact that the possibility of a difference being manifested in their views on some cases is now and again commented on by the irresponsible layman. An eminent member of that profession which makes a larger demand than any other upon the patience, the judgment, and the self-sacrifice of those who practise it, defended, a short time ago, in the course of a very witty speech, the apparent want of harmony between the views of physicians on some technical points. He said that perhaps he might not be going too far if he remarked that occasionally in a court of law the technical evidence given by two doctors seemed at first sight not to agree. This point was readily conceded by the audience; and the professor then went on to say that surely the absence of this mechanical agreement on all points should be accepted as powerful testimony to the conscientiousness of the profession. One of the rarest of charges brought against physicians was that of collusion. In fact, while he believed that, if put to it, his memory would be quite equal to recall some instances of a divergence of opinion between doctors in a witness-box, he did not think that he could remember a single case in which a charge of collusion against two members of the profession had been brought home to them.

Most sensible people will, I am persuaded, take this view of a matter which has called for comment in all ages. It is because doctors are so singularly sensitive that, sooner than run the chance of being accused of acting in collusion in any case, they now and again have been known to express views that were—well, not absolutely in harmony the one with the other.

The distinguished physician who made so reasonable a defence of the profession which he adorns, told me that it was one of his early instructors who made that excellent summary of the relative values of medical attendance:—

“I have no hesitation in saying that it’s not better to be attended by a good doctor than a bad doctor; but I won’t go the length of saying that it’s not better to be attended by no doctor at all than by either.”

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