Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/467

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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"- Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 299.] SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

HOSPITALS. ALREADY, before Christmas, hearts are kindling with the Christmas spirit, and the season set apart especially by Englishmen to deeds of hospitality, is declaring itself to most of us^with a rich loviugkindness, redundantly kind. What more seasonable topic can there be, therefore, just now, than hospitals, their name and purpose being, in the truest sense, a part of hospitality ? Better still for the Christmas application of the word, they are essentially a part of hospitality as it has been interpreted by Christians. We have the word from ancient Rome. The hospes or guest, either of a private person, or of a temple, or of the whole state had a sacred character ; Jupiter Hospitalis was his patron, and avenged his wrongs. The hospitale was the name of the guest-chamber in a Roman's house ; that was the first idea of a hospital. The stranger introduced to his host by the recommenda- tion of a third person, was safe within the gates of his protector, who was not necessarily his entertainer ; for, after one dinner with the family, the stranger generally dined in the hospitale, and paid for his food. Among the early Greeks these customs of hospitality were kept alive by the religious notion that any unknown person might prove to be a god come in disguise. The guest of the Greeks, too, had Zeus for his peculiar friend. Besides social and political uses, there was mutual advantage to be had by Greeks and Romans out of their own customs of hospitality. The nursing of the sick poor, formed no part of them with either people. The crowd of sick people lying in the open air round about the temple of JEsculapius at Epidaurus, formed the first rough sketch of a hospital for the sick iu ancient times. Anto- ninus Pius caused a building to be furnished for the patients. Before that time, children were born there, and diseased people perished on the ground under the open sky as temple- keepers told Pausanias with sorrow. The buildings attached to the temple of ^Escula- pius at Rome, on the island in the Tiber, formed also a receptacle for the sick. That the place had some resemblance to a modern hospital is evident from the decree of the Emperor Claudius, that slaves who had been sent thither for healing by their masters, should receive their freedom on recovering. The bridges Fabricius and Cestius connected the island of ^Esculapius with the town. There are no other traces of a public care taken by Romans for the sick. But these foundations differ altogether in spirit from the hospitals for the sick which exist now by thousands throughout Christendom. The temple of the God of Healing was a place of resort for persons suffering under disease^ who journeyed thither as men now journey to Bath or Leamington ; but, in a more serious mood, for they went not only to spend money but to pray. Buildings erected for their use bore, therefore, quite as much analogy to a pump-room and lodgings at a spa as to a set of modern hospital wards. This is nearly the case, too, with the only trace of a sick hospital found among the ancient Jews, the House of Mercy at Jerusalem, built beside the healing spring of Bethesda, probably by Herod the Great, that patients might await. in it the movement of the water. The ancient world, in fact, was out of sympathy with the fundamental notion of a hospital, and would probably, if questioned on the subject, have given the answer of Shah Abbas of Persia ; who, being asked why he had no hospitals in his dominions, replied that they would be a shame to him, for where the government was good there could be no poor,, no sick. In truer sympathy with the realities by which they were surrounded, the Christian, apostles began the new system of hospitality by urging constantly that contributions be collected for poor brethren. To memorable words of the Great Founder of our Faith, the modern hospitals owe their beginning, and the earliest of the bishops were most zealous to get money for the poor, the sick, the way- farer, the orphan. Economy first dictated the collection of these objects of care in large buildings appropriated to their use ; in such association many might be served by few attendants, and the means of help might be enlarged when cost was saved in food and lodging as well as in attendance. Already in the year three hundred and twenty-five, the Council of Nice had, among other business, to define the qualities and duties of hospital- master. Thirty-five years later Gregory of VOL. sir. 299