The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. IV: American
Doctors Wit and Humor
By Melville De Lancey Landon (Eli Perkins) (18391910)
From Thirty Years of Wit
I LOVE the doctor for his negative qualities; not for medicating us, but for his skilfully administered bread pills. I love him for his diplomatic way of making us believe hes doctored us when he hasntfor the best doctors now take off their hats to Dr. Nature, and let him do what they used to do with physic.
Speaking of negative doctoring reminds me of how General Sheridan defended Dr. Bliss. Dr. Bliss, you know, was the man who cured President Garfieldthat is, cured him as Dr. Mackenzie did the German Emperorcured him till he died.
Well, said Sheridan, I was very sick in the hospital after the battle of Winchester. One day they sent for Dr. Agnew, of Philadelphia, and he gave me some medicine, but I kept getting worse. Then they sent for Dr. Frank Hamilton, and he gave me some more medicine, but I grew worse and worse. Then they sent for Dr. Bliss, and
Because, said he, on general principles, Mr. Perkins, whenever a patients esophagus becomes hyperemic through the inordinate use of spiritus vini rectificati, causing hepatic cirrhosis, the reverse holds true; in other cases it does not.
One day I cut my toe off with an ax. When I called in Dr. Hammond to prescribe for me, he said he thought I had tic doloro, and then he prescribed bleeding, and bled me out of seventeen dollars. That was the dollar; and when he wanted his pay, I told him to charge it, and that was the tic; and I still owe it to him, and that is the o.
Two very curious incidents occurred to me recentlyall through the mystification of terms. The newspapers nowadays are full of Italian murders and New Orleans assassinations, and any one whose name ends with an i, like Martinelli, or Morelli, is looked upon with suspicion. So when I was a little ill the other morning, and our Irish butler wondered what was the matter, I said:
A cautious doctor will always sit still and let his patient talk, and in a few moments he will know all about his disease. But they tell a story about Dr. Munson, of Baltimore, who was always too previous. He would glance at a patient and pompously sum up his case in an instant, often making mistakes.
Same old story, my friend. Men cant live without fresh air. No use trying it. I could make myself a corpse, like you are doing by degrees, if I sat down in my office and didnt stir. You must have fresh air; you must take long walks, and brace up by staying out doors. Now I could make a drug-store of you, and you would think I was a smart man, but my advice to you is to walk, walk, walk.
Thats right. Argue the question. Thats my reward. Of course you know all about my business. Now, will you take my advice? Take long walks every day, several times a day, and get your blood in circulation.
Doctors often say their fees are high because so many patients fail to pay their honest bills. To collect these bills doctors often have to resort to the courts. A queer medico-legal case came up recently in Chicago. Dr. Barker sued an Irishman for five dollars for professional services attending his wife. He proved his claim by competent witnessesproved that he had made the visits, and there seemed to be no chance for the Irishman to get out of paying the bill. But after admitting the visits the Irishman begged the privilege of cross-examining the doctor.
The Irishman lost his case, however. He was not so successful as farmer Bennettold Peter Bennett, of Georgia. Old Peter was a plain old farmer, but he was a good talker. It seems that the old mans wife had a sore limb, and he employed Dr. Mason to cure it, but never paid him for his services. Now, Dr. Mason was a very noted and a very learned man; and to add to this, he employed Bob Toombs to prosecute the case. It was a great case in Georgia, Old Peter Bennett vs. Dr. Mason, and the reputation of Toombs brought out a courthouse full of people.
Wall, gentlemen of the jury, began old Peter, depositing a chew of tobacco in the corner, I aint no lawyer and no doctor, and you aint nuther; and if we farmers dont stick together, these here lawyers and doctors will get the advantage of us. I aint no objections to lawyers and doctors in their place, and some is clever men, but they aint farmers, gentlemen of the jury. Now this Dr. Mason was a new doctor, and I sent for him to come and doctor my wifes sore leg. And he did, and put some salve truck on it, and some rags, but it never done a bit of good, gentlemen of the jury. I dont believe hes no doctor, no way. Theres doctors as I know is doctors, sure enough; but this aint no doctor at all.
Ask your patients, slowly repeated Bennett; and then, deliberating, Ask your patients! Why, they are all dead. Ask your patients! Why, I should have to hunt them in the lonely graveyards, and rap on the silent tomb to get answers from the dead. You know they cant say nothing to this case, for youve killed em all.