The Strand Magazine/Volume 3/Issue 14/Illustrated Interviews

The Strand Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 14
edited by George Newnes
Illustrated Interviews. No. VIII. Sir Morell Mackenzie, by Harry How. by Harry How
4160759The Strand Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 14 — Illustrated Interviews. No. VIII. Sir Morell Mackenzie, by Harry How.Harry How

Illustrated Interviews.


The corridor.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

Y OU could not readily escape noticing the residence of the famous specialist in Harley-street, Cavendish-square. Irrespective of the brass plate on the door, the somewhat gloomy appearance of the exterior is relieved by trailing ivy round the windows, the clinging tendrils of which hang over the balcony. But the distinctly dismal impression created by "outside appearances" disappears when once the door has been opened, and opportunities are afforded of exploring the "interior." Interest is gathered round every object one meets. Sir Morell's whole life has been a veritable run of professional adventure, and, much of his work being really historical, one expects to find about the place many reminiscences of his brilliant career—a career rendered more striking from the indisputable fact that incessant work, and purpose not to be turned aside, has had as much to do in winning him the position he now holds in the world of medicine as the marvellous skill he has shown in the diagnosis of the various forms of disease to which he has given his particular attention.

Immediately on entering, just opposite a convenient weather-dial, is a portrait of the Empress Frederick. She has written an inscription on it in pencil—"To Sir Morell Mackenzie, the faithful and devoted friend and medical attendant of the Emperor, Frederick III. of Germany. Victoria. Charlottenburg, May, 1888." The portrait is an excellent photograph of the oil painting by Angeli which hangs in the Royal Academy at Berlin. It was taken soon after our Princess Royal first went to Germany; but, though painted so many years ago, it is still thought to give the expression of the august personage better than any modern portrait. On passing through another door a long corridor is entered. From this corridor access is obtained to the library, to the dining-room, and two consulting-rooms. In a corner of this vestibule is a fine specimen of carving in oak; the exterior presents a grand cabinet dated 1647, within is a lift communicating with the kitchen. At intervals along the corridor are fine vases and a number

Painted by the Empress Frederick of Germany.

of works of art of importance—an etching, by Herkomer, of the Earl of Londesborough, a full-length oil painting of the master of the house, whilst the companion picture to this is an admirable likeness of Sir Morell's father in old-time black cravat and cut-away coat. A portrait group of the Laryngological Section of the "International Medical Congress, Copenhagen, 1884," shows Sir Morell in the centre, having on either side of him Dr. W. Meyer, of Copenhagen, and Professor Schnitzler, of Wein. Close by is Leslie Ward's famous cartoon of Mr. George Grossmith and Mr. Corney Grain—and near this is a painting by a Royal brush—a group of fruit and antique flagon. The inscription reads "Her Majesty the Empress Frederick of Germany, Princess Royal of England. Presented by Her Majesty to Sir Morell Mackenzie."

The dining-room.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

Just as I am entering the dining-room a fine dachshund of rich brown colour comes dashing along the passage. It answers to the name of "Moritz," and follows us into the room, where it perches on its hind legs on one of the chairs as soon as the repast is brought in. "Moritz" is a twin. "Max" was its birth-mate. They both belonged to the late Emperor Frederick. "Moritz" was sent as a present from the late Emperor to Sir Morell, whilst "Max" found a home on the Royal hearthrug of the Princess Victoria of Prussia. The dining-room is very spacious, and at one end the ceiling is supported by two massive red granite pillars. The mantelpiece is of marble exquisitely carved, over which is an oil painting by the late George Chapman of one of Sir Morell's daughters—Mrs. McKenna—as a child in a white frock tied up with a great red sash, romping with a black retriever. Excellent pictures are also here of Sir Morell and Lady Mackenzie. The furniture is of oak, and there are some grand cabinets on which are many beautiful bronzes. The outlook from the dining-room is not calculated to inspire one with rural thoughts—chimney-pots and ugly, far-from-interesting brick walls abound; for which reason the glass in the window is embossed and the view is lost.

The drawing-room.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

Ascending the staircase—which is decorated in Pompeian style, the centre of each plaque containing beautifully drawn and delicately coloured figures—the drawing-room is reached. This is really two apartments thrown into one. Immense vases of everlasting grass, with ivy playing about the wall, are everywhere—bowls and baskets, dishes and trays, are full of flowers, for Sir Morell is fond of this form of natural decoration. The cabinets are filled with Chinese ware. On one is a case of curios—silver daggers, crosses, Japanese wings, snuff-boxes, goblets, and, if I mistake not, a tiny model in silver of "Moritz." Just by stands an equally tiny silver chariot drawn by diminutive oxen. Many tokens of Royal favour are here in the form of portraits. Pictures of members of Sir Morell's family are scattered about. The hoof of a horse used as a match-box has an engraved plate upon it which reads, "Beauty—January, 1878." "Beauty" was a great favourite of its master, and a family pet. His memory is thus preserved. I am reminded that Sir Morell breaks-in all his harness horses, and that he never drives animals under six years of age.

The drawing-room (from the conservatory).
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

The consulting-room.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

At the far end of the drawing-room is a rockery, where the greenest of ferns and indoor plants are thriving in abundance. A heavy Sèvres vase is pointed out to me near the windows which overlook Harley-street. "It was a present," said Sir Morell, "from a lady who was suffering from cancer. I only saw her once. When she died I received a note from her executors saying that she had bequeathed me a vase, and if I would send down to Sydenham I might have it. I sent down a man for this purpose. He returned empty-handed—he could not move it. Finally I despatched three men, who brought it up."

The consulting-room.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

Curiosity is inseparable from an eminent doctor's consulting-room, and, seeing that Sir Morell has two such apartments, it is probable that my curiosity was two-fold as I hurried down the stairs into the long corridor again. Both of these rooms are as distinctly different as possible.

The first one I entered is probably the more frequently used. It was in this room that the late Emperor Frederick used to sit when engaged with Sir Morell. Although a remarkably foggy day, the room was fragrant with the perfume of roses; blossoms from Nice were in vases on the writing-table, and in many an odd corner; flowers were even mingled with the shiny instruments neatly set out on another table. By this table I stood for a moment, and looked at a high-backed oaken chair upholstered in brown leather. It was the chair in which the Emperor Frederick used to sit.

The actors' testimonial.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

The portraits are countless. On the mantel-board—where, by the fireplace, a pair of fine young foxes are ingeniously utilised for the purpose of supporting a wastepaper basket—are autographed pictures of Her Majesty the Queen, the Empress Frederick, and the Marchioness of Lorne. Hanging on the walls and on various supports are etchings of Mr. Irving, Miss Ellen Terry as Marguerite and Portia, Mr. George Lewis, Mr. Edmund Yates, Madame Albani, Mr. and Mrs. Kendal in "The Ironmaster," Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft, and Lady Monckton, all of whom at some time or another have entered this room. On a single shelf running round the apartment are books. Many are the curios to be seen—quaint old watches, old-fashioned china, and other much-sought-after knick-knacks. Here is a silent clock, of which never a single tick is heard, and which required winding but once a year. The inscription on an immense silver bowl mounted on an oak pedestal, says: "To Sir Morell Mackenzie, M.D., a grateful tribute of admiration and regard from those whose names are inscribed in this bowl. July 6, 1869." Inside the bowl are exact fac-simile signatures of the subscribers, and amongst those which glisten I notice those of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, John Hare, Tom Thorne, Henry Neville, W. H. Kendal, Wilson Barrett, Brandon Thomas, John Billington, and Edward Terry. Inside this case are a number of presents from patients, whilst a portrait of one of Sir Morell's daughters finds a place on the glass top.

Possibly, however, the most interesting part of the room is that nearest the historical chair already referred to. Just beneath a large picture of Madame Pauline Lucca is a crimson plush frame, containing a portrait of the late Emperor Frederick in the same uniform as he wore on the occasion of Her Majesty's Jubilee. Another portrait of him bears date of 1863, and shows him in Highland dress, whilst close by are portraits, taken some years ago, of his three daughters, dressed in plain white muslin dresses.

Two important letters are framed here in gilt supports, surmounted with Royal coronets. One is in German, written on buff notepaper, with a deep black edging. It was from the Queen to her late son-in-law. Although I am not permitted to give the contents of it, I may say that it is to the purport that Her Majesty intends conferring a knighthood upon Sir Morell, whilst the other matter impressively shows the love Her Majesty had for the late Emperor. The other letter—part of which only is shown—is from the Emperor to Sir Morell. The Emperor used very large-sized note, edged with black, and wrote a remarkably bold, clear hand. It reads:—

"Charlottenburg, April 10, 1888.

"My Dear Sir Morrell,—You were called to me by the unanimous wish of my German medical attendants. Not knowing you myself, I had confidence in you in consequence of their recommendation. But I soon learnt to appreciate you from personal experience."

The gothic room.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

The second consulting-room is reached by passing through a small dispensary. On the white walls of this substantial medicine cabinet are rough notes by Sir Morell—pencil reminders to see such and such patients. This second apartment is known as "The Gothic Room"—every article of furniture in it is of that period. It is almost like entering a small chapel—there is an air of quietude about the place almost approaching sanctity which is most impressive. The pictures on the walls are Scriptural, principally of the Italian school. At the far end is a stained glass window, at the foot of which is a lappet with embroidered lace hangings. Gilt vases and candles are set out on the various shelves. By the side of the bookcase is a huge wrought iron cross, an excellent specimen of sixteenth century work. In the centre of the cross is a little cabinet containing a statue of the Virgin Mary, before which a light is kept continually burning. This cross was "picked up" with several others in the Austrian Tyrol by the Empress Frederick, who gave it to Sir Morell in 1888. She has also one hanging over her bed in her palace in Berlin. This apartment is lit with the electric light—as indeed are all the rooms—and it may be interesting to many to know that the picture of The Gothic Room in these pages was obtained with this artificial light.

It was in the first-mentioned consulting-room that Sir Morell and I sat down by the fire and talked together. The eminent physician is of medium height, clean shaven, and has an expression of great kindness and sympathy. He talks in measured tones, and in many ways our conversation resembled a consultation—every word was uttered with remarkable discretion and care. A patient puts as much trust in his doctor as a client in his lawyer. The medical world. and the legal community do not betray confidences—hence the demeanour of Sir Morell on some points displays the utmost caution. At other times he talked with freedom and gaiety—there was not a tinge of "the profession" about him.

Sir Morell Mackenzie.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

Sir Morell was born at Leytonstone in 1837, and comes of a distinguished medical family. He was educated at private school at Walthamstow, under the care of Dr. Greig, where he remained until he was sixteen years of age. He was always passionately fond of natural history, and this possibly had something to do with turning his thoughts towards medicine. He always wanted to enter the medical profession, but the cost of the necessary education was too great for his mother—his father being dead at this time—so that it seemed probable that a commercial career was to fall to his lot. Whilst the majority of his schoolfellows went to India, he, on saying "good-bye" to Dr. Greig, started life as a junior clerk in the Union Assurance Company, where he remained for two years. However, in 1856 a relation came forward, and the young clerk was sent to the London Hospital. Here he greatly distinguished himself, winning the senior gold medal for surgery, and the senior gold medal for clinical medicine.

"In 1858 I went to Paris—after passing my exams—where I spent a useful year," said Sir Morell, "and from there to Vienna and Pesth. It was at the latter city that I met Professor Czermak, who was just then devoting much time and labour to the laryngoscope. I really went to see the city, but I came across an instrument which at once claimed my every thought. I saw what a future there was for it, and a great friendship sprang up between Czermak and myself. On my return to England, I brought the instrument back with me, and directed my whole attention to it. I was then appointed resident medical officer at the London Hospital. Immediately cases came pouring in from all parts, and we would publish those of the deepest interest which had been examined with the aid of the laryngoscope. Let me describe this instrument in a few simple words. It consists of a mirror put at the back of the throat which conveys a light into the windpipe, at the same time receiving the image of the illuminated part upon the surface. An ordinary optician could make one. It is very difficult to use on young children, though really I have succeeded in operating on little ones of three and four years of age.

"I look back on those days at the London Hospital with infinite pleasure. Many, many poor people were seen, and often I would visit some of the most wretched abodes. But the poorer class are impressively appreciative. Their appreciation runs the length of their pockets, and some of the little tokens of thankfulness I received, though small in value, bore much meaning. Apples, oranges, packets of sweets, and small bags of nuts would come, accompanied by a letter." And then I learnt of a very happy custom of Sir Morell's, of assuring his smaller East-end patients that it was "all right," and they "would soon be well." He would take toys into these squalid dwellings, and, putting a horse and cart, or a doll, at the foot of the bedside, so that the little sufferer could see it easily, and look upon it as something worth winning, he would promise it to the child as soon as its throat had been examined. In many ways he became a friend to dwellers in the East. It meant hard work for the young doctor. In the daytime he was seeing patients, whilst every moment of leisure was devoted to inventing all sorts of instruments to be used in conjunction with the laryngoscope. On his leaving the Hospital as resident medical officer, he was appointed visiting physician, which meant he had to visit there twice a week to see out-patients.

"Early days in the East End."

His course was now fully decided—he would make a speciality of throat diseases. In 1863 he established the Throat Hospital in Golden-square. It began as a small dispensary, with a couple of rooms, but it grew and grew until it assumed the proportions of a great building, affording relief to thousands of people, and Sir Morell still remains its consulting physician.

"About this time," resumed Sir Morell, "I was lecturing very frequently on Physiology. I soon got into a large private practice. I took a house in George-street, Hanover-square, thence removed to Weymouth-street, and finally, in 1870, to my present abode. You ask me for a typical day's work. From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. I visit bad cases. From 10 to 2 I am being consulted here. In the afternoon I am out again. In the evening I take notes of my cases, and when a spare hour for recreation comes to me, I find relief in a game of chess—my favourite amusement. I can get through fifty or sixty cases in a day. Old patients can be seen very quickly—five minutes; new cases—twenty minutes or half an hour. They come from all parts of the world—New Zealand, Australia, India. It was from America—Milwaukee—that I received the offer of my largest fee. I was offered £5,000 to go out and see one individual case, but I was unable to accept it, for at that time I was attending the late Emperor.

"One very curious fee I once received came about as follows. An old man came to see me here. I examined his throat, and at once saw it was in terribly bad state. I asked him why he had not come to see me sooner. His reply amused me very much.

"'You see, sir,' he said, 'I hadn't got a guinea. I always thought a physician wouldn't see anybody without a spade guinea, and at last I've got one. Here it is, and thank you very much.'"

"Here it is, and thank you very much."

It is as interesting as it is gratifying to hear Sir Morell give favourable accounts of the throats of some famous actors and singers. He is often called upon to restore the voices of vocalists just for the night—a medical feat which he performs with the utmost skill. For years Madame Albani never consulted any doctor about her throat. She was always afraid of being made worse. Finally she went to Sir Morell. Madame Albani has a fine, well-developed throat. Sir Morell assured me that an examination of Madame Patti's throat gave him the secret of the creation of her beautiful notes. The great singer cares for it so well that to-day it absolutely shows no sign of wear, and resembles the throat of a young girl. Madame Pauline Lucca has a grand throat, and one is not surprised to hear that Sims Reeves takes more care of his throat than any vocalist living. Mr. Irving has a very sound throat. As his intimates know, the eminent actor's stage voice is entirely different from his natural voice, but the constant employment of his theatrical tones has done no harm. Referring to Mr. Toole, Sir Morell simply said in a very happy way, "I had great difficulty in examining him." Those who know the comedian will readily understand this.

"The great thing," prescribed Sir Morell, "is to try and harden the throat; do not wrap it up too much. Endeavour to make the neck as capable of exposure as the face. We do not cover up our faces, and they are practically the hardiest part of our bodies. Of course, when a person gets to a certain age it is too late for this. Keep the throat free from wrappings. The throat is the entrance to the lungs—a very vital part, narrow and tender. The great feather boas and Medici collars which ladies wear round the neck, and the stifling mufflers which men put on, are calculated to do harm. I recommend turn-down collars. Gargling with cold salt water in the morning is a very excellent thing, also bathing the throat, first with very hot water, and then with very cold. The throat gets the effect of a sudden shock."

Then our conversation briefly reverted to Sir Morell's memorable connection with the late Emperor of Germany.

"It was in the May of 1887," the physician said, "that I received a summons to go immediately to Berlin. The telegram came at nine o'clock one evening, and I was away by the first train next morning. On my arrival, I at once saw the Crown Prince. My examination only lasted a few minutes. I felt it was a very doubtful case, and I told all the Crown Prince's regular doctors, who were in the room, frankly what I thought. The Crown Prince seemed to be possessed of much sang froid; he was quite happy. His extreme courtesy impressed me most. He thanked me most heartily for coming. I saw him again the next day, and was more than ever convinced of my previous impressions."

All the world knows the course of events which followed. Sir Morell assured me that his illustrious patient never once asked what he (the physician) thought of his case; never once said, "Do you think I shall recover?" The Royal personage was very fond of talking about England, and particularly Scotland. When Sir Morell was out walking or driving with him, the late Emperor was never happier than when telling stories of Frederick the Great. He pointed out the mill at Potsdam—famous for the historical dispute between the miller and his noble ancestor.

"There's the mill," he cried to Sir Morell. "It was a great eyesore to the Great Frederick, and he wanted the miller to give it up. The miller was immovable, so the ruler of a kingdom and the owner of a mill went into court. The millowner won, and when the King found his cause was hopeless, he became good friends with the miller by way of atonement."

Sir Morell was by the Emperor's bedside during the last hours. Writing materials were laid out on the bed, and the Emperor used to write on these to Sir Morell when he required moving from one bed to another, on slips of paper about five inches long by three inches wide, written on in pencil. Sir Morell prolonged one of the most precious lives in Europe for over a year.

From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.

It is of no small moment to learn what Sir Morell Mackenzie considers the effects of oversmoking on the throat. In reply to my question on this highly interesting subject, he referred me to an article he wrote in The New Review. His remedy for getting rid of the same is a very simple one, namely, the discontinuing of the practice which engenders them.

He strongly objects to a cigarette "as being the worst form of indulgence, from the fact that the very mildness of its action tempts people to smoke nearly all day long, and by inhaling the fumes into their lungs, saturate their blood with the poison. It should be borne in mind that there are two bad qualities contained in the fumes of tobacco. One is poisonous nicotine, the other the high temperature of the burning tobacco. Most people, however, can smoke in moderation without injury; to many tobacco acts as a useful nerve sedative, but, on the other hand, an excessive indulgence in the habit is always injurious, many persons wilfully overstepping the boundary line which separates moderation from abuse. The condition of the throat as well as that of the general health varies greatly at times, and an amount of smoking, which at one time would be attended with no bad effect, might at another produce serious harm. Every smoker knows that when the stomach is out of order the pipe or cigar loses its charm; but it is not so generally known that at such times the tongue (which to the experienced eye is a mirror of the invisible stomach) and the throat are more vulnerable than usual to tobacco. If nature's warnings on these points are disregarded, as they generally are, the smoker will bring on himself much unnecessary discomfort, and even suffering. In connection with the variation in susceptibility just referred to, it may be mentioned that persons leading an out-door life can, as a rule, smoke with much greater impunity than those who spend most of their time indoors. It is further worthy of remark that the inhabitants of warm climates suffer less than the dwellers in what is, probably on the lucus a non lucendo principle, called the temperate climate of England. This is doubtless due to the greater resisting power of throats less harassed by fogs and east winds, and partly, perhaps, to the use of milder tobacco.

"To conclude with a little practical advice," says Sir Morell, "I would say to anyone who finds total abstinence too heroic a stretch of virtue, let him smoke only after a substantial meal, and, if he be a singer or a speaker, let him do so after, and never before using his voice. Let him smoke a mild Havannah, or a long-stemmed pipe charged with some cool smoking tobacco. If the charms of the cigarette are irresistible, let it be smoked through a mouthpiece which is kept clean with ultra-Mohammedan strictness. Let him refrain from smoking pipe, cigar, or cigarette to the bitter, and, it may be added, rank and oily end. Your Turk, who is very choice in his smoking, and thoroughly understands the art, always throws away the near half of his cigarette. Let the singer who wishes to keep in the 'perfect way' refrain from inhaling the smoke, and let him take it as an axiom that the man in whom tobacco increases the flow of saliva to any marked degree is not intended by nature to smoke. Let him be strictly moderate in indulgence—the precise limits each man must settle for himself—and he will get all the good effect of the soothing plant without the bane which lurks in it when used to excess.

Harry How.

The operating chair.
From a Photo. by Elliott & Fry.