Some Of My Early Teachers




[A Farewell Address to the Medical School of Harvard University, November 28, 1882.]


I had intended that the recitation of Friday last should be followed by a few parting words to my class and any friends who might happen to be in the lecture-room. But I learned on the preceding evening that there was an expectation, a desire, that my farewell should take a somewhat different form; and not to disappoint the wishes of those whom I was anxious to gratify, I made up my mind to appear before you with such hasty preparation as the scanty time admitted.

There are three occasions upon which a human being has a right to consider himself as a centre of interest to those about him: when he is christened, when he is married, and when he is buried. Every one is the chief personage, the hero, of his own baptism, his own wedding, and his own funeral.

There are other occasions, less momentous, in which one may make more of himself than under ordinary circumstances he would think it proper to do; when he may talk about himself, and tell his own experiences, in fact, indulge in a more or less egotistic monologue without fear or reproach.

I think I may claim that this is one of those occasions. I have delivered my last anatomical lecture and heard my class recite for the last time. They wish to hear from me again in a less scholastic mood than that in which they have known me. Will you not indulge me in telling you something of my own story?

This is the thirty-sixth Course of Lectures in which I have taken my place and performed my duties as Professor of Anatomy. For more than half of my term of office I gave instruction in Physiology, after the fashion of my predecessors and in the manner then generally prevalent in our schools, where the physiological laboratory was not a necessary part of the apparatus of instruction. It was with my hearty approval that the teaching of Physiology was constituted a separate department and made an independent Professorship. Before my time, Dr. Warren had taught Anatomy, Physiology, and Surgery in the same course of Lectures, lasting only three or four months. As the boundaries of science are enlarged, new divisions and subdivisions of its territories become necessary. In the place of six Professors in 1847, when I first became a member of the Faculty, I count twelve upon the Catalogue before me, and I find the whole number engaged in the work of instruction in the Medical School amounts to no less than fifty.

Since I began teaching in this school, the aspect of many branches of science has undergone a very remarkable transformation. Chemistry and Physiology are no longer what they were, as taught by the instructors of that time. We are looking forward to the synthesis of new organic compounds; our artificial madder is already in the market, and the indigo-raisers are now fearing that their crop will be supplanted by the manufactured article. In the living body we talk of fuel supplied and work done, in movement, in heat, just as if we were dealing with a machine of our own contrivance.

A physiological laboratory of to-day is equipped with instruments of research of such ingenious contrivance, such elaborate construction, that one might suppose himself in a workshop where some exquisite fabric was to be wrought, such as Queens love to wear, and Kings do not always love to pay for. They are, indeed, weaving a charmed web, for these are the looms from which comes the knowledge that clothes the nakedness of the intellect. Here are the mills that grind food for its hunger, and "is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"

But while many of the sciences have so changed that the teachers of the past would hardly know them, it has not been so with the branch I teach, or, rather, with that division of it which is chiefly taught in this amphitheatre. General anatomy, or histology, on the other hand, is almost all new; it has grown up, mainly, since I began my medical studies. I never saw a compound microscope during my years of study in Paris. Individuals had begun to use the instrument, but I never heard it alluded to by either Professors or students. In descriptive anatomy I have found little to unlearn, and not a great deal that was both new and important to learn. Trifling additions are made from year to year, not to be despised and not to be overvalued. Some of the older anatomical works are still admirable, some of the newer ones very much the contrary. I have had recent anatomical plates brought me for inspection, and I have actually button-holed the book-agent, a being commonly as hard to get rid of as the tar-baby in the negro legend, that I might put him to shame with the imperial illustrations of the bones and muscles in the great folio of Albinus, published in 1747, and the unapproached figures of the lymphatic system of Mascagni, now within a very few years of a century old, and still copied, or, rather, pretended to be copied, in the most recent works on anatomy.

I am afraid that it is a good plan to get rid of old Professors, and I am thankful to hear that there is a movement for making provision for those who are left in need when they lose their offices and their salaries. I remember one of our ancient Cambridge Doctors once asked me to get into his rickety chaise, and said to me, half humorously, half sadly, that he was like an old horse,--they had taken off his saddle and turned him out to pasture. I fear the grass was pretty short where that old servant of the public found himself grazing. If I myself needed an apology for holding my office so long, I should find it in the fact that human anatomy is much the same study that it was in the days of Vesalius and Fallopius, and that the greater part of my teaching was of such a nature that it could never become antiquated.

Let me begin with my first experience as a medical student. I had come from the lessons of Judge Story and Mr. Ashmun in the Law School at Cambridge. I had been busy, more or less, with the pages of Blackstone and Chitty, and other text-books of the first year of legal study. More or less, I say, but I am afraid it was less rather than more. For during that year I first tasted the intoxicating pleasure of authorship. A college periodical, conducted by friends of mine, still undergraduates, tempted me into print, and there is no form of lead-poisoning which more rapidly and thoroughly pervades the blood and bones and marrow than that which reaches the young author through mental contact with type-metal. Qui a bu, boira,--he who has once been a drinker will drink again, says the French proverb. So the man or woman who has tasted type is sure to return to his old indulgence sooner or later. In that fatal year I had my first attack of authors' lead-poisoning, and I have never got quite rid of it from that day to this. But for that I might have applied myself more diligently to my legal studies, and carried a green bag in place of a stethoscope and a thermometer up to the present day.

What determined me to give up Law and apply myself to Medicine I can hardly say, but I had from the first looked upon that year's study as an experiment. At any rate, I made the change, and soon found myself introduced to new scenes and new companionships.

I can scarcely credit my memory when I recall the first impressions produced upon me by sights afterwards become so familiar that they could no more disturb a pulse-beat than the commonest of every-day experiences. The skeleton, hung aloft like a gibbeted criminal, looked grimly at me as I entered the room devoted to the students of the school I had joined, just as the fleshless figure of Time, with the hour-glass and scythe, used to glare upon me in my childhood from the "New England Primer." The white faces in the beds at the Hospital found their reflection in my own cheeks, which lost their color as I looked upon them. All this had to pass away in a little time; I had chosen my profession, and must meet its painful and repulsive aspects until they lost their power over my sensibilities.

The private medical school which I had joined was one established by Dr. James Jackson, Dr. Walter Channing, Dr. John Ware, Dr. Winslow Lewis, and Dr. George W. Otis. Of the first three gentlemen I have either spoken elsewhere or may find occasion to speak hereafter. The two younger members of this association of teachers were both graduates of our University, one of the year 1819, the other of 1818.

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 l'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.

How many of you who are before me are familiarly acquainted with the name of Broussais, or even with that of Andral? Both were lecturing at the Ecole de Medicine, and I often heard them. Broussais was in those days like an old volcano, which has pretty nearly used up its fire and brimstone, but is still boiling and bubbling in its interior, and now and then sends up a spirt of lava and a volley of pebbles. His theories of gastro-enteritis, of irritation and inflammation as the cause of disease, and the practice which sprang from them, ran over the fields of medicine for a time like flame over the grass of the prairies. The way in which that knotty-featured, savage old man would bring out the word irritation--with rattling and rolling reduplication of the resonant letter r--might have taught a lesson in articulation to Salvini. But Broussais's theory was languishing and well-nigh become obsolete, and this, no doubt, added vehemence to his defence of his cherished dogmas.

Old theories, and old men who cling to them, must take themselves out of the way as the new generation with its fresh thoughts and altered habits of mind comes forward to take the place of that which is dying out. This was a truth which the fiery old theorist found it very hard to learn, and harder to bear, as it was forced upon him. For the hour of his lecture was succeeded by that of a younger and far more popular professor. As his lecture drew towards its close, the benches, thinly sprinkled with students, began to fill up; the doors creaked open and banged back oftener and oftener, until at last the sound grew almost continuous, and the voice of the lecturer became a leonine growl as he strove in vain to be heard over the noise of doors and footsteps.

Broussais was now sixty-two years old. The new generation had outgrown his doctrines, and the Professor for whose hour the benches had filled themselves belonged to that new generation. Gabriel Andral was little more than half the age of Broussais, in the full prime and vigor of manhood at thirty-seven years. He was a rapid, fluent, fervid, and imaginative speaker, pleasing in aspect and manner,--a strong contrast to the harsh, vituperative old man who had just preceded him. His Clinique Medicale is still valuable as a collection of cases, and his researches on the blood, conducted in association with Gavarret, contributed new and valuable facts to science. But I remember him chiefly as one of those instructors whose natural eloquence made it delightful to listen to him. I doubt if I or my fellow-students did full justice either to him or to the famous physician of Hotel Dieu, Chomel. We had addicted ourselves almost too closely to the words of another master, by whom we were ready to swear as against all teachers that ever were or ever would be.

This object of our reverence, I might almost say idolatry, was one whose name is well known to most of the young men before me, even to those who may know comparatively little of his works and teachings. Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis, at the age of forty-seven, as I recall him, was a tall, rather spare, dignified personage, of serene and grave aspect, but with a pleasant smile and kindly voice for the student with whom he came into personal relations. If I summed up the lessons of Louis in two expressions, they would be these; I do not hold him answerable for the words, but I will condense them after my own fashion in French, and then give them to you, expanded somewhat, in English:

Formez toujours des idees nettes. Fuyez toujours les a peu pres.

Always make sure that you form a distinct and clear idea of the matter you are considering.

Always avoid vague approximations where exact estimates are possible; about so many,--about so much, instead of the precise number and quantity.

Now, if there is anything on which the biological sciences have prided themselves in these latter years it is the substitution of quantitative for qualitative formulae. The "numerical system," of which Louis was the great advocate, if not the absolute originator, was an attempt to substitute series of carefully recorded facts, rigidly counted and closely compared, for those never-ending records of vague, unverifiable conclusions with which the classics of the healing art were overloaded. The history of practical medicine had been like the story of the Danaides. "Experience" had been, from time immemorial, pouring its flowing treasures into buckets full of holes. At the existing rate of supply and leakage they would never be filled; nothing would ever be settled in medicine. But cases thoroughly recorded and mathematically analyzed would always be available for future use, and when accumulated in sufficient number would lead to results which would be trustworthy, and belong to science.

You young men who are following the hospitals hardly know how much you are indebted to Louis. I say nothing of his Researches on Phthisis or his great work on Typhoid Fever. But I consider his modest and brief Essay on Bleeding in some Inflammatory Diseases, based on cases carefully observed and numerically analyzed, one of the most important written contributions to practical medicine, to the treatment of internal disease, of this century, if not since the days of Sydenham. The lancet was the magician's wand of the dark ages of medicine. The old physicians not only believed in its general efficacy as a wonder-worker in disease, but they believed that each malady could be successfully attacked from some special part of the body,--the strategic point which commanded the seat of the morbid affection. On a figure given in the curious old work of John de Ketam, no less than thirty-eight separate places are marked as the proper ones to bleed from, in different diseases. Even Louis, who had not wholly given up venesection, used now and then to order that a patient suffering from headache should be bled in the foot, in preference to any other part.

But what Louis did was this: he showed by a strict analysis of numerous cases that bleeding did not strangle,--jugulate was the word then used,--acute diseases, more especially pneumonia. This was not a reform,--it was a revolution. It was followed up in this country by the remarkable Discourse of Dr. Jacob Bigelow upon Self-Limited Diseases, which has, I believe, done more than any other work or essay in our own language to rescue the practice of medicine from the slavery to the drugging system which was a part of the inheritance of the profession.

Yes, I say, as I look back on the long hours of the many days I spent in the wards and in the autopsy room of La Pitie, where Louis was one of the attending physicians,--yes, Louis did a great work for practical medicine. Modest in the presence of nature, fearless in the face of authority, unwearying in the pursuit of truth, he was a man whom any student might be happy and proud to claim as his teacher and his friend, and yet, as I look back on the days when I followed his teachings, I feel that I gave myself up too exclusively to his methods of thought and study.

There is one part of their business which certain medical practitioners are too apt to forget; namely, that what they should most of all try to do is to ward off disease, to alleviate suffering, to preserve life, or at least to prolong it if possible. It is not of the slightest interest to the patient to know whether three or three and a quarter cubic inches of his lung are hepatized. His mind is not occupied with thinking of the curious problems which are to be solved by his own autopsy,--whether this or that strand of the spinal marrow is the seat of this or that form of degeneration. He wants something to relieve his pain, to mitigate the anguish of dyspnea, to bring back motion and sensibility to the dead limb, to still the tortures of neuralgia. What is it to him that you can localize and name by some uncouth term the disease which you could not prevent and which you cannot cure? An old woman who knows how to make a poultice and how to put it on, and does it tuto, eito, jucunde, just when and where it is wanted, is better,--a thousand times better in many cases,--than a staring pathologist, who explores and thumps and doubts and guesses, and tells his patient be will be better tomorrow, and so goes home to tumble his books over and make out a diagnosis.

But in those days, I, like most of my fellow students, was thinking much more of "science" than of practical medicine, and I believe if we had not clung so closely to the skirts of Louis and had followed some of the courses of men like Trousseau,--therapeutists, who gave special attention to curative methods, and not chiefly to diagnosis,--it would have been better for me and others. One thing, at any rate, we did learn in the wards of Louis. We learned that a very large proportion of diseases get well of themselves, without any special medication,--the great fact formulated, enforced, and popularized by Dr. Jacob Bigelow in the Discourse referred to. We unlearned the habit of drugging for its own sake. This detestable practice, which I was almost proscribed for condemning somewhat too epigrammatically a little more than twenty years ago, came to us, I suspect, in a considerable measure from the English "general practitioners," a sort of prescribing apothecaries. You remember how, when the city was besieged, each artisan who was called upon in council to suggest the best means of defence recommended the articles he dealt in: the carpenter, wood; the blacksmith, iron; the mason, brick; until it came to be a puzzle to know which to adopt. Then the shoemaker said, "Hang your walls with new boots," and gave good reasons why these should be the best of all possible defences. Now the "general practitioner" charged, as I understand, for his medicine, and in that way got paid for his visit. Wherever this is the practice, medicine is sure to become a trade, and the people learn to expect drugging, and to consider it necessary, because drugs are so universally given to the patients of the man who gets his living by them.

It was something to have unlearned the pernicious habit of constantly giving poisons to a patient, as if they were good in themselves, of drawing off the blood which he would want in his struggle with disease, of making him sore and wretched with needless blisters, of turning his stomach with unnecessary nauseous draught and mixtures,--only because he was sick and something must be done. But there were positive as well as negative facts to be learned, and some of us, I fear, came home rich in the negatives of the expectant practice, poor in the resources which many a plain country practitioner had ready in abundance for the relief and the cure of disease. No one instructor can be expected to do all for a student which he requires. Louis taught us who followed him the love of truth, the habit of passionless listening to the teachings of nature, the most careful and searching methods of observation, and the sure means of getting at the results to be obtained from them in the constant employment of accurate tabulation. He was not a showy, or eloquent, or, I should say, a very generally popular man, though the favorite, almost the idol, of many students, especially Genevese and Bostonians. But he was a man of lofty and admirable scientific character, and his work will endure in its influences long after his name is lost sight of save to the faded eyes of the student of medical literature.

Many other names of men more or less famous in their day, and who were teaching while I was in Paris, come up before me. They are but empty sounds for the most part in the ears of persons of not more than middle age. Who of you knows anything of Richerand, author of a very popular work on Physiology, commonly put into the student's hands when I first began to ask for medical text-books? I heard him lecture once, and have had his image with me ever since as that of an old, worn-out man,--a venerable but dilapidated relic of an effete antiquity. To verify this impression I have just looked out the dates of his birth and death, and find that he was eighteen years younger than the speaker who is now addressing you. There is a terrible parallax between the period before thirty and that after threescore and ten, as two men of those ages look, one with naked eyes, one through his spectacles, at the man of fifty and thereabout. Magendie, I doubt not you have all heard of. I attended but one of his lectures. I question if one here, unless some contemporary of my own has strayed into the amphitheatre,--knows anything about Marjolin. I remember two things about his lectures on surgery, the deep tones of his voice as he referred to his oracle,--the earlier writer, Jean Louis Petit,--and his formidable snuffbox. What he taught me lies far down, I doubt not, among the roots of my knowledge, but it does not flower out in any noticeable blossoms, or offer me any very obvious fruits. Where now is the fame of Bouillaud, Professor and Deputy, the Sangrado of his time? Where is the renown of Piorry, percussionist and poet, expert alike in the resonances of the thoracic cavity and those of the rhyming vocabulary?--I think life has not yet done with the vivacious Ricord, whom I remember calling the Voltaire of pelvic literature,--a sceptic as to the morality of the race in general, who would have submitted Diana to treatment with his mineral specifics, and ordered a course of blue pills for the vestal virgins.

Ricord was born at the beginning of the century, and Piorry some years earlier. Cruveilhier, who died in 1874, is still remembered by his great work on pathological anatomy; his work on descriptive anatomy has some things which I look in vain for elsewhere. But where is Civiale,--where are Orfila, Gendrin, Rostan, Biett, Alibert,--jolly old Baron Alibert, whom I remember so well in his broad-brimmed hat, worn a little jauntily on one side, calling out to the students in the court-yard of the Hospital St. Louis, "Enfans de la methode naturelle, etes-vous tous ici?" "Children of the natural method [his own method of classification of skin diseases,] are you all here?" All here, then, perhaps; all where, now?

My show of ghosts is over. It is always the same story that old men tell to younger ones, some few of whom will in their turn repeat the tale, only with altered names, to their children's children.

Like phantoms painted on the magic slide, Forth from the darkness of the past we glide, As living shadows for a moment seen In airy pageant on the eternal screen, Traced by a ray from one unchanging flame, Then seek the dust and stillness whence we came.

Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, whom I well remember, came back from Leyden, where he had written his Latin graduating thesis, talking of the learned Gaubius and the late illustrious Boerhaave and other dead Dutchmen, of whom you know as much, most of you, as you do of Noah's apothecary and the family physician of Methuselah, whose prescriptions seem to have been lost to posterity. Dr. Lloyd came back to Boston full of the teachings of Cheselden and Sharpe, William Hunter, Smellie, and Warner; Dr. James Jackson loved to tell of Mr. Cline and to talk of Mr. John Hunter; Dr. Reynolds would give you his recollections of Sir Astley Cooper and Mr. Abernethy; I have named the famous Frenchmen of my student days; Leyden, Edinburgh, London, Paris, were each in turn the Mecca of medical students, just as at the present day Vienna and Berlin are the centres where our young men crowd for instruction. These also must sooner or later yield their precedence and pass the torch they hold to other hands. Where shall it next flame at the head of the long procession? Shall it find its old place on the shores of the Gulf of Salerno, or shall it mingle its rays with the northern aurora up among the fiords of Norway,--or shall it be borne across the Atlantic and reach the banks of the Charles, where Agassiz and Wyman have taught, where Hagen still teaches, glowing like his own Lampyris splendidula, with enthusiasm, where the first of American botanists and the ablest of American surgeons are still counted in the roll of honor of our great University?

Let me add a few words which shall not be other than cheerful, as I bid farewell to this edifice which I have known so long. I am grateful to the roof which has sheltered me, to the floors which have sustained me, though I have thought it safest always to abstain from anything like eloquence, lest a burst of too emphatic applause might land my class and myself in the cellar of the collapsing structure, and bury us in the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. I have helped to wear these stairs into hollows,--stairs which I trod when they were smooth and level, fresh from the plane. There are just thirty-two of them, as there were five and thirty years ago, but they are steeper and harder to climb, it seems to me, than they were then. I remember that in the early youth of this building, the late Dr. John K. Mitchell, father of our famous Dr. Weir Mitchell, said to me as we came out of the Demonstrator's room, that some day or other a whole class would go heels over head down this graded precipice, like the herd told of in Scripture story. This has never happened as yet; I trust it never will. I have never been proud of the apartment beneath the seats, in which my preparations for lecture were made. But I chose it because I could have it to myself, and I resign it, with a wish that it were more worthy of regret, into the hands of my successor, with my parting benediction. Within its twilight precincts I have often prayed for light, like Ajax, for the daylight found scanty entrance, and the gaslight never illuminated its dark recesses. May it prove to him who comes after me like the cave of the Sibyl, out of the gloomy depths of which came the oracles which shone with the rays of truth and wisdom!

This temple of learning is not surrounded by the mansions of the great and the wealthy. No stately avenues lead up to its facades and porticoes. I have sometimes felt, when convoying a distinguished stranger through its precincts to its door, that he might question whether star-eyed Science had not missed her way when she found herself in this not too attractive locality. I cannot regret that we--you, I should say--are soon to migrate to a more favored region, and carry on your work as teachers and as learners in ampler halls and under far more favorable conditions.

I hope that I may have the privilege of meeting you there, possibly may be allowed to add my words of welcome to those of my former colleagues, and in that pleasing anticipation I bid good-by to this scene of my long labors, and, for the present at least, to the friends with whom I have been associated.




Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Email:
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.
Email: