Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association/Volume 2/22
BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR OF
THE LATE DR. JOHN DARWALL,
BY JOHN CONOLLY, M. D.
SINCE the publication of the preceding volume of the Transactions, the Association has been deprived, by a premature death, of a member whose contributions would, in all probability, frequently have added value to these pages; a physician whose learning, experience, and never-ceasing ardour for knowledge, alike fitted him for promoting some of the best designs contemplated at the foundation of this society. That the Transactions should preserve some record of a physician who had already risen to great estimation among his provincial brethren, and whose life was passed in professional labours, and, eventually, forfeited in their prosecution, is but a simple act of justice. That such a record should be made by myself, is but part of a sacred debt of friendship, due to the memory of one with whose virtues I had opportunities of becoming thoroughly acquainted; and whose death I shall not cease to lament as long as my own existence continues. I know the difficulty of making such a record impartial; but I should most imperfectly discharge this last duty to one who was the most sincere and candid of men, if I were to state anything unfaithfully. Few men had fewer faults requiring palliation, and few more of those sterling merits to which a laboured eulogy could add nothing. If his spirit, freed from its earthly bonds, is conscious of what is done on earth, I well know that it would not be soothed by flattery, or approve of any syllable of praise offered at the expense of truth.
Dr. John Darwall was the son of the Rev. John Darwall, who was the incumbent of St. John's Chapel, at Deritend, and one of the masters of the Free Grammar School, in Birmingham, until his death in 1828. His mother, who lives to deplore the loss of such a son, was the sister of ——— Whateley, Esq. of the same town. He was born in 1796, and, at the age of five, was sent to a preparatory school: when he was eight years of age, he was taken under his father's care in the Grammar-school; and, in 1808, he was placed under the immediate tuition of the Rev. John Cooke, then, as now, head master of the school. Of his habits and pursuits as a boy, I have been able to collect few particulars. He is said to have been fond of such exercises as required activity of mind, and to have taken more pleasure than boys usually do in his classical learning, and, consequently, to have excelled in it. The attachment that he ever retained for classical studies, the praise of which was not infrequently mixed with the professional information with which, in after years, his letters abounded, was among the best proofs that he had been a diligent scholar under able teachers. Far from adding to the innumerable examples of those who, boasting of a classical education, retain little love of ancient learning, and acquire as little of modern literature, he preserved, in all circumstances, a fondness for those liberal studies which have, in all ages, been acknowledged to adorn success, and mitigate the unavoidable trials of adversity. This circumstance was, probably, in part, attributable to an accidental direction given to his mind after his school-days, but must partly be ascribed to the exercises of the grammar-school, and partly to that parental care of which he ever cherished a grateful and pious remembrance.
Next to the advantage of having a good schoolmaster, must be placed that of having an able professional instructor in early life; an advantage which was possessed, in an eminent degree, by the subject of this memoir. Soon after leaving school, in 1813, he became the pupil of the late Mr. George Freer, of Birmingham, one of the most distinguished provincial surgeons of his time, and a gentleman of a very amiable private character. From this period, the papers, note-books, and memoranda of Dr. Darwall, present remarkable evidences of the interest which he took in the profession in which he was now to be educated, and of the industry which even then characterised him. The earliest notes of cases witnessed by him, are dated in March, 1815, when he was but nineteen years of age. A few are surgical, but it would appear, both from his notes, and from the abstracts of works which he read, the habit of making which seems to have been acquired at this time, that the study of medical cases and writings soon proved more attractive to him. Whilst he appears to have been a very diligent medical pupil, he was by no means inattentive to general science and literature. There is a list of his own books, made, I believe, about this period, which shews that he endeavoured in all subjects to select the best; and his memoranda display many traces of his having been a most attentive and reflecting reader.
Even in this early part of his life, he was remarkable for a gravity of deportment, strongly contrasted with the vivacity of his intellect. He possessed few of the light accomplishments which render young persons acceptable in society; and he was heedless of any associates but such as could improve him by their greater knowledge and experience. Several years afterward (in 1824) when he was himself settled in practice, he tells me, in reply to an invitation to a ball, that he “ never had been in a public ball-room in his life.” He had participated, indeed, in none of the gaieties of youth; but in their place had courted meditation and wisdom, He had very early acquired the habit of proposing to himself some particular subject, on which he would occupy his thoughts in his walks; and the faculty of concentrating his attention, thus strengthened, made him contemn frivolous diversions, and discontented with any thing short of full and exact knowledge, in any subject which came before him. The quickness and clearness of his apprehension led him readily to understand many subjects thoroughly, on which many, who live in society, are content to talk superficially, if they can talk agreeably; and his strict sense of what was due to truth, made him, perhaps, too prone to disputation, and too unceremonious in his manner of conducting it. These peculiarities, which were the basis of the reputation which he lived to acquire, never quite deserted him in after life; but as his knowledge increased, and his acquaintance with mankind became larger, he was observed to become less dogmatical in the assertion of his opinions, and more indulgent to those whom he knew to be wrong, and with whom he happened to dispute. But it must be confessed, that he never became tolerant of ignorant presumption; and that he was never disposed, either from courtesy to age, or respect to station, or from indifference, to allow what was true to be sacrificed to what was merely specious. As he grew older, too, and became more known, and, I may add, distinguished, he found fewer who disputed with him. Some feared his more exact knowledge, and others too deeply respected him to be guilty of much conversational provocation. Yet, with these changes, which he could not but observe, he did not become more, but less arbitrary; and, although few people ever adhere so strongly as he did to opinions formed very early in life, it was generally observed of him that he had grown more and more considerate in the expression of opinions which no one suspected him of being likely to abandon.
The unusual steadiness of his outward deportment, which sometimes raised a pardonable smile in those who thought merely of his youthful years, was but the outward sign of his composed and thoughtful mind, and of a temperament so little prone to any irregularities, that he seemed an exception to all the instances of youthful folly, and quite incapable of any approach to what was vicious. Yet this happy exemption from faults that are so often commingled with fine and promising qualities, and which, too, they often mar and always enfeeble, was conjoined with a singular candour in estimating the conduct of men less happily organised, or less habitually exercising a severe self-command. This, also, was a characteristic developed early, and which always continued to distinguish him. Together with this singular purity of morals, was associated a generosity of disposition often wanting to such natures. For any becoming object─for the acquisition of the means of knowledge─for the maintenance of a proper station, he thought no sacrifices too considerable; but he had nothing to spare for luxury, or vanity, or sensuality, or any kind of selfish indulgence.
In October, 1816, he went to London to attend the hospitals and lectures. It was now his good fortune to be a daily bearer of the eloquent and instructive lectures of Mr. Abernethy, of some of which he took, and carefully preserved, copious notes. He became much attached to that great man, whose merits he knew how to appreciate amidst the eccentricity by which they were surrounded. In May, 1817, he became a member of the College of Surgeons, and, not content with the superficial manner in which medicine was, at that time, taught in London, went to Edinburgh, in the autumn of the same year, to study physic under the celebrated masters who then lectured in the college of that city.
There is many a reader of this tribute to Dr. Darwall's memory, to whom the allusion to the pleasure a youth, so disposed, would experience on first going to Edinburgh, will recall emotions of a very agreeable kind. To a young medical student, anxious to become accomplished in his profession, and expecting its highest honours as the reward of some years of delightful study, the approach to Edinburgh, where, not to mention other honoured names, Gregory then taught in the chair of physic, Monro and Barclay lectured on anatomy, and Gordon on physiology, was an æra never, amidst future cares and changes, to be forgotten. Nor did experience reflect any shade of disappointment on such feelings. The admirable lectures, to the hearing of which the college bell daily awoke the student, who arose from no distempered couch by dissipation fevered; the excellent instruction to be daily gained in the clinical wards of the infirmary; the studious zeal which seemed to pervade the whole University; the animating discussions carried on in the medical society, where were laid the foundations of blessed friendships; these are things which must ever form the most cherished portion of an Edinburgh student's recollections. There are few who, looking back on those studious, temperate, happy years, can say that time has brought them any thing more valuable; nay, there are doubtless many who, amidst the vexations, the animosities, the distractions, and the struggles that have since befallen or engaged them, have often wished that their lives could have been passed in that academic seclusion to which few worldly feelings found their way, and in which science could be tranquilly pursued.
No student ever went to Edinburgh with a higher ambition, or with a firmer determination to waste no time whilst there, than Dr. Darwall. He had some letters of introduction to celebrated individuals, but, like most Edinburgh students who become interested in the business of the place, U believe he gradually left off all society, except that of his fellow students, and those of his teachers whom he had the advantage of being acquainted with. I have often heard him speak, in terms of admiration, of Dr. Gordon; and he deeply participated in the regret which all lovers of the profession felt at the death of that distinguished lecturer, whose talents, had he lived, could not but have reflected a new lustre on the great school of Edinburgh.
How his days would be spent in Edinburgh, no one, who has studied there, can require to be informed. Every hour brought its regular occupation, and every hour added something to his note-books. Full notes of the comprehensive lectures of Dr. Home, on the materia medica, are among his papers; and notes of cases, medical and surgical, seen, or read of, or heard of; with extracts from, and abstracts of, medical hooks and works of general literature, which he found time to peruse in the evening. His reading, at this period, was very extensive. Large libraries were open to his eager curiosity, and he read on without regard to his health, laying, thus early, the foundation of inveterate dyspepsia, by which his frame became, at length, so much affected, as never quite to recover a state of perfect health. Should these pages be perused by some one who, like him at the time I speak of, is depriving himself of needful exercise and rest, with the exalted hope of mental distinction, let him think of the example held forth in this memoir, (for what student ever was moved by the precept itself,) and learn, that to sacrifice some time to repose, and some to relaxation, is really to gain time; and that to hope to get the start of mankind, by neglecting the suggestions of worn and irritated nerves, is a deceitful hope, which, with alluring sounds, has drawn aside a thousand aspiring spirits to destruction.
After a winter thus passed, Dr. Darwall returned, for a time, to Birmingham, and I can gather from his note-books, that he returned an enthusiastic and devoted student. The activity of his mind seems to have been exercised on a variety of subjects. His knowledge was increased, and his industry was not diminished. His notes of cases are continued. Several observations seem, about this time, to have been made by him on the diseases of work-people; and it is probable that, before he returned to Edinburgh, in the autumn of 1819, he had collected most of the materials for a paper on that subject, which he read, in 1820, to the Medical Society, as well as for his Thesis De Morbis Artificum. It is to be remarked, that he seldom wholly abandoned any subject to which his attention had once been particularly directed. With the help of his private papers, and of his published works, we may trace this subject from his first detached observations, made when visiting different manufactories, to his essay before the Medical Society, in 1820, then to his Thesis, in 1821; from thence to his, papers in the Medical Repository, in 1825; and, lastly, to the well-considered article on the Diseases of Artisans, which he contributed to the 1st volume of the Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine, in the last year of his life. Whilst no subject connected with health and disease seems to have escaped his attention, he was not unobservant of the wonders of machinery by which he was often surrounded in the scene of his observations, and on these and on different manufactures, he was in the habit of making occasional memoranda.
On Dr. Darwall's return from Edinburgh, in 1818, after passing one winter there, he became the assistant of Mr. Freer, whose health was declining; and, up to this time, it seems to have been the wish of his friends that he should practice surgery in Birmingham. His Edinburgh studies had suggested a different course to him, and other circumstances favouring his design, he returned, in the following year, (1819) to Edinburgh, with a determination to study for a doctor's degree. It is easy for those who knew him, to imagine that this intervening year, passed in surgical practice, was borne somewhat impatiently by one so capable of further enjoying the advantages with which, as an Edinburgh student, he had already become acquainted. But, whatever might be his wish to become once more a student, it did not abate his industry, or lead him to waste the passing hours.
Like all young men of studious habits, he commenced many essays, on many subjects; but his essays, unlike those of most young men, contain great proofs of reflection and judgment. To one note book, apparently commenced at Birmingham, in 1818, is prefixed a motto from Harvey's Conclave of Physicians; “ That which is the soul of a physician, and animates those previous dispositions, (for theory is no other,) is sagacity and observation.” No sentence could better have characterised him who copied it, and followed the advice which it conveys. He began essays on vaccination, on contagion, on the functions of arteries, and on neuralgia; the last in Latin. For the press he composed slowly, with little care for words, but great anxiety for the matter; and he was never satisfied until he had referred, on any subject which occupied him at the time, to every author of repute whose works were within his reach, although he surrendered his deliberate judgment to none. It seems to me that it would be an officious and spurious act of friendship to publish what he evidently thought too unfinished for publication; but even these fragments are worthy of him. Among the notes of his general reading, one, suggested by the perusal of the Life of Bishop Watson, forcibly attracted my attention. It related to the early part of the bishop's life, and was curiously illustrative of his own ambition, his difficulties, and his success; so that I could not but fancy it probable that he was led to make such a note by an almost unconscious sympathy with the destiny to which it pointed.
Although he still continued very regardless of general society, he certainly felt occasional mortification from the consciousness of having too much neglected the art of conciliating many, who, he began to find out, were insensible or indifferent to all which he more justly prized in himself; and from which he had, perhaps, expected that their favour would alone be gained. I have heard him, in after years, refer to these feelings, and lament his inability to win people's kindness more generally; and once or twice have known him quote, in a tone of melancholy bitterness, the words expressive of the dismal fate of those who
“ —————— roam along, the world's tired denizens,
“ With none who bless them, none whom they can bless."
The winter of 1819-20, saw him return to Edinburgh, full of new health and spirits, to commence his second winter's studies; and from this period, until the day of his death, it was my happiness to be intimately acquainted with him. My first remembrance of him, is at the Friday night discussions of the Edinburgh Medical Society; in which he often took an active part. And, certainly, when I noted his pale, restless, sad, and penetrating countenance, and his somewhat ungraceful figure, and heard the brief and cutting apothegms, or severe or sarcastic mode of public address, in which he then delighted, whatever respect I felt for his talents and knowledge, I was little inclined to intimate friendship with him. Farther and various opportunities taught me all his value, although at a later period than that of which I am now speaking.
Dr. Darwall's personal appearance, at this time, was nearly such as he preserved throughout his short life. He was of a middle stature, and strongly made, but without clumsiness or corpulency. His quick walk, and general rapidity of movements, were very indicative of the decision of his character. His face was pale, his eyes were grey, and rather small; his hair was light brown, and straight; the general expression of his countenance was not lively, but when he spoke, there was that both in his expression and his manner, which never failed to impress on those who felt little interest in him before, the idea that he was a man of a very superior understanding. In private society, with young persons, and with ladies, he was animated and even playful; but the more accomplished the company in which he was, the more did his own talents manifest themselves. He was always scrupulously attentive to his dress. He was fond of seeing men eminent for any attainment, and to strangers, as well as to his friends, as he grew older, he was invariably courteous in his reception, most hospitable in his entertainment, and very agreeable in his conversation.
During the winter of 1819-20, already mentioned, we met, as many other students only met, in the morning at the lectures or the hospital, and once a week at the society. The other evenings of each week were spent by most of us in secluded study, consequent on the occupation of the past day, or preparatory for the morrow. Our relaxation was the Society, to which I now look back with mingled feelings of pleasure and of sorrow; for, of those who enlivened or adorned it many are since dead, and not a few, like my lamented friend, in the midst of the most active years of life.
The session of that winter was one which few, who were then in the habit of attending the Medical Society, can have forgotten. Very early in it, a discussion occurred concerning the merits of a paper, written by a surgeon now of great eminence in Edinburgh, but, who was considered to have shewn, by the shortness of this contribution to the society, and certain marks of deficient care which it bore, a want of that respect to which an assembly of students was somewhat morbidly sensible. This discussion first brought before the society another friend, whose death I have, within the last few months, to lament, the late Dr. Henry Gaulter, of Manchester, whose great eloquence was only second to his great acquirements and virtues. But the society was, that winter, still more deeply agitated, by the publication of a mock-heroic poem, in which some liberties were taken with its most prominent members. In the warm debates which ensued on the question of expelling the poet, and which were several times adjourned, the society exhibited a picture of the larger world of strife, but without the breaking up of friendships among those who then contended for one side or the other, with an earnestness on which they doubtless often look back with some degree of amusement. These questions being considered of no small importance, had the effect of exciting the members, during the whole of that session, to unusual exertions: every thing was done with spirit and energy, and, at some of the discussions, even on medical subjects, the Hall of the society, and the very staircase, were crowded with visiters, attracted by the interest of the questions, or the reputation of those who were to conduct the debate. Of the four presidents elected after that busy session, two, Dr. Gaulter and Dr. Lane, have since died, before age had overtaken them: the latter died before the year of his presidency expired, and Dr. Brabant, now of Devizes, was almost unanimously elected in his room. Dr. Burne, now of London, and myself; were the other two. This office, it is well known, is one eagerly desired by Edinburgh students, being almost the only honour or mark of distinction which is open to them in that University. Like other offices, it is said to have been, sometimes, "derived corruptly:" but, in the session of which I am speaking, by whatever degrees of merit it might be gained by the different candidates, I feel fully assured it was not obtained, in any instance, by any superfluous expenditure of money. That Dr. Darwall desired to fill this office, and that he ought to have filled it, was never doubted by those who knew him; but he distrusted his popularity, and was absent at the time of the annual election. He was, however, always looked upon as one of the members who conferred most honour on the society, by his learning and talents, and he took a very active share both in the discussions and in the management of the institution. Although he evidently carefully prepared himself on the subjects to be discussed, it was not in his nature to be solicitous about the mode in which his opinions were expressed. His language was scrupulously correct, and his manner was earnest; but he seldom condescended to enliven his remarks by those graceful digressions, without which the good will even of scientific auditors cannot always be conciliated. In public debate, or in private conversation, Dr. Darwall's extreme correctness of information rendered him, as I have observed it did in earlier years, formidable to superficial persons, who generally constitute a majority of an auditory; and those who could not disprove his facts, were, sometimes, glad to find consolation in the complaints they could make, with some kind of justice, of the unpalatable way in which their information had been amended.
The Medical Society, however, of which I have thus spoken, with, I hope, not an unpardonable garrulousness, was still but a place of relaxation to Dr. Darwall; and he did not always willingly give up an evening to its business. He felt that the days of a student's life are few and precious; and that those who neglect them, will long repent that they forgot such days would not last for ever. I imagine that he was seldom or never guilty of throwing away an hour.
As I took my degree on the same day with him, in August, 1821, I happened, during the early part of that year, to see more of him than I had done before. He had become a husband, having, some months before, married the only daughter of Philemon Price, Esq. of Birmingham, a lady in every way worthy of his choice, and who now survives him. During part of the winter, Mrs. Darwall was with him in Edinburgh, but when the anxious period of the examinations approached, he was again living alone for a few months, Mrs. Darwall being in England; and his domestic habits having rendered the solitude of his evenings irksome to him, I and my family had, very frequently, the pleasure and advantage of his society. With the ambition of a student might now be perceived the ambition of one conscious of his own power, and eager to enter the lists with those who were candidates for actual practice, in the large town of which he was a native, and which he never ceased to consider his fixed home. He passed his examinations with the highest credit, and, even, honour; but was so impatient of the mere ceremonials of the graduation, and so anxious to feel himself settled, that all the persuasions of his fellow-students could not dissuade him from leaving Edinburgh on the very; day on which he attained the doctorate. And if he left the place of his studies with too sanguine an expectation of a long life of success, he at least so continued, and even increased his industrious labours during the twelve years more of life allotted to him, as to have left nothing undone to deserve it.
My own intercourse with him seemed, at that
time, to have terminated, in all probability, for ever;
but various accidental circumstances, such as so
often influence our most important determinations,
very unexpectedly caused me, within two years from
that time, to settle at Stratford, little more than
twenty miles from Birmingham; and gave occasion
to a renewal of that friendly intimacy which never
ceased until his lamented death.
In May, 1823, I paid my first visit to him in Birmingham, and found him as laborious, and as full of ambition, as when a student. He had much increased his stock of books, but had exchanged the habit of sitting up late to read them, for the better custom of rising very early, which practice he long persevered in. He had been elected physician to the General Dispensary, and devoted a large portion of his time to its duties. In one of his books I find the names of more than three thousand poor patients seen by him, during the ten years in which he was attached to the dispensary; and the result of almost every case is stated: but these formed, I believe, but a small part of the number of poor for whom he prescribed. I have known him see, and prescribe for, more than 80 patients in one morning; and in the month of January, 1824, when he was only beginning to be known, he saw 100 new cases at his own house, for none of which he received any remuneration: within five months from that time, he had prescribed for more than 700. The number became greater in the next year. Mentioning this to me in one of his communications, he says, “ you may well suppose I cannot permit loquacity.” Of the cases of many he kept full notes, and he never lost an opportunity of examining the results of diseases in cases terminating fatally, keeping well-arranged records of such circumstances. For a time, he transmitted quarterly reports of the diseases of Birmingham to Dr. Duncan, of Edinburgh, and they appeared in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal. His private practice increased very slowly. His merit was of that kind which only time and peculiar opportunities could disclose; and his seniors and competitors were among the most distinguished provincial physicians of England. But, during this probationary period, his sense of duty caused him to pay as much attention to the minutest points of practice, in attending his poor patients, as if his fortune had depended upon it. Among other things, he felt a most laudable anxiety to secure them from the carelessness which he too often witnessed, with respect to the manner of performing vaccination; and, commenting on the indifference he sometimes observed to prevail on this subject, he expresses himself, in a letter now by me, very strongly concerning those who “ practice medicine as a lucrative art merely, and seem to have no feeling that it is a science which they are bound conscientiously to understand and exercise; that neither rank nor station ought to influence them where attention is necessary, and that in affecting to administer to the maladies of those who are not affluent enough to remunerate them, they are committing a base and felonious deception.”
A friend and neighbour, who knew him most intimately, a surgeon of the highest respectability, who had daily opportunities of seeing him for many successive years, and whose friendly offices only ceased when all human attention became in vain, has so well described his habits and character as a practitioner, in a letter with which he has favoured me, that it would be unjust to Dr. Darwall's memory not to quote his own words. Mr. Wickenden will, I know, require no apology for my doing what is dictated by such a wish, respecting one whom he regarded with sentiments of friendship not second to my own. “ It would ill become me, ” says Mr. Wickenden, “ to obtrude an opinion on the general or professional education of our late friend; but, perhaps, I may be excused a few remarks upon his conduct as a practitioner of the art, and as a progressive student in the science of medicine. On this subject I need not inform you that his views were most comprehensive; that he cultivated with extraordinary zeal, and recommended with great earnestness for diligent study, every branch of learning and science upon which the professional student could climb; deeply impressed with the conviction that upon every twig are to be found 'leaves for healing.' In the examination of patients, his enquiries were minute, and he availed himself of every means that he could acquire to correct or increase the power of the inlets to his mind. Thus, although he possessed no very superior sense of hearing or touch, by diligent attention he attained peculiar tact in distinguishing the various changes produced by disease in the chest and its contained organs, by means of the stethoscope and percussion. His botanical pursuits led him, likewise, to cultivate the use of the microscope, the wonderful power of which he delighted to develope, in the illustration of animal as well as vegetable structures. His mode of treating disease was cautious, but as far removed from timidity on the one hand, as from temerity on the other. Pathological investigation he held to be of primary importance, and it consequently obtained a large share of his attention: for this pursuit such was his ardour, that he made extraordinary sacrifices of personal comfort in its prosecution.”
He was so rigidly punctual in the daily exercise of the duties of his profession, that it was almost impossible to persuade him to leave home even for part of a day. Yet the wish to be better acquainted with some of the practitioners of the Metropolis, and some interest felt in the success of a medical association which was then contemplated, led him, with myself, to pay a visit, of nearly a week, to London, in the latter part of 1824; and the journey now forms an interesting fragment of my recollections of him.
The business of the projected association (the plan of which never became fully organized) caused us to pass an evening at Dr. Birkbeck's house, in the company of that eminent person, and many of his medical friends. Those who have witnessed, as it has since often been my privilege to do, the intellectual reunions at the house of that truly philosophical physician, will know that there is a charm about them which it would be vain to attempt to describe. My friend Dr. Darwall was animated and happy: and our conversation was of medicine; and of Edinburgh days; and of those medical reforms which, then almost hopeless, seem, at length, to have forced their way to general consideration.
One well-remembered day, also, we passed with Mr. Abernethy; experiencing, from that remarkable man, all the kindness which he vouchsafed to all who visited him as friends; and delighted, as we could not fail to be, by the variety, the force, the vivacity, and the elegance of his conversation. In the hurry of many engagements, we also found time to visit libraries and collections of a scientific description; some public buildings, the courts of law, and the theatres: and I now discovered how warm an interest my friend took in all public matters; and that, amongst his other reading, he had become very intimate with the masters of the English drama. The mention of these particulars may require some apology; but, in, my recollections, they are preserved, as illustrative of a mind which was not only never idle, but never ill employed. To pass a day with Dr. Darwall, was to discover how much might be done in a day; what active duties gone through; what objects of interest attended to; and what subjects of animating and improving discourse suggested, in communion with an elevated and energetic intellect. It happened that, on our return, we travelled alone; and it, when recurring to the reminiscences of our discourse in that pleasant journey, I feel a pleasure in reflecting that, of the many worthy designs he contemplated, some he lived to accomplish; this pleasure is saddened by the reflection that, in less than ten years, all his manly aspirations were hushed in the repose of the levelling grave.
He was, at the period of which I am now speaking, and he remained as long as he lived, one of the few persons, engaged in the active affairs of the world, with whom his friends might, at any time, communicate on the highest or most serious subjects. He never met such subjects with indifference, or turned from them with levity. The charm of this consistency can be best estimated by those who have seen, with regret, in numerous instances, the gradual vanishing of many of the fresher and better feelings in men's progress through life; and how often the acquired faults of selfishness come to be cherished, as if they were proofs of wisdom increased, and experience turned to profitable uses. From his youth upwards he had been carefully instructed in religion; and, when not excited by any reference to political considerations, his views were as worthy of the philosopher as of the christian. He seemed always persuaded that life was given to men for good ends: and in all the years in which I knew him, and in all the circumstances in which I saw him, I never knew him idle, or frivolously occupied; or rendered, either by fatigue or care, unwilling to enter upon any subject connected with the advancement of knowledge or the interests of virtue.
We had, for several months before this time, been projecting the establishment of a new Medical Review; and one of the results of this journey was an engagement to assist Dr. Copland in editing the London Medical Repository, of which a number appeared on the first of every month. This kind of labour, than which nothing can be more irksome to men of middle age, is particularly attractive to younger writers, and we entered on our task with much enthusiasm. It requires a bold man, Montesquieu says, to make a reviewer; for he must make up his mind to make a hundred enemies a month. Like other reviewers, we sometimes found it difficult to speak the truth without offending the sensitiveness of authors: we were sometimes threatened, and sometimes flattered, in the hope that we would be partial or unjust; but, during the two years in which we continued our labours, whatever might be the qualities of our works, I can, at least, say that they were performed in the strictest spirit of independence. We endeavoured, especially, to call attention to the numerous valuable medical books then appearing in France and Germany; and, also, to the still more neglected older medical writers of the profession. Dr. Darwall furnished articles on the theories of Stahl and Hoffmann; on the medical doctrines of Broussais; on the diseases of infants; and on the causes of sudden death: he wrote retrospective reviews of the Chirurgia parva Laufranci, and of Sir John Floyer's Pulse-watch: he also reviewed Dr. Baron's Life of Dr. Jenner, in a manner strongly indicative of his estimation of that erudite and admirable performance. In the course of nearly two years, it is unnecessary to say that he contributed numerous other articles, which it is not necessary here to particularize. For some time he wrote monthly reports on prevalent diseases: a subject to which he seems always to have directed his attention. It was about this time that Dr. Copland and Dr. Darwall wished that a medical dictionary should be undertaken; and, I believe, this design was chiefly impeded by my own scepticism as to the possible achievement of a task so laborious, by any three physicians. Dr. Copland has since shewn that his own learning and unassisted industry were sufficient for such an undertaking; and accident caused both Dr. Darwall and myself to become contributors to the more extensive Cyclopœdia.
The business of the Repository afforded me abundant opportunities of seeing Dr. Darwall's character in every light, and proved to me, what, indeed, I entertained no previous doubts concerning, his love of every kind of learning, his acuteness and candour as a critic, his high sense of honour, his unwearied assiduity, and his entire freedom from the meanness and selfishness, the development of which poisons almost every association of men, for whatever purposes. I never remember our entertaining different opinions on any subject connected with the conduct of the Journal. We divided the task of reading the Foreign Journals, and, during its performance, Dr. Darwall made himself well acquainted with the German language, “ hating,” as he expressed it, “ to take things at second-hand.” I may add, that if we had no great reason to estimate its pecuniary advantages highly, we felt that the exertion which our editorship imposed upon us, and the necessity of being alert and punctual, and attentive to passing events in our profession, was a most valuable remuneration: and such will these habits be found by all who, undertaking the management of the medical press in a good spirit, preserve their minds from the littleness and from the rancour which, without some vigilance, such an occupation certainly has a tendency to cast over the character. About the middle of the year 1827, Dr. Darwall's practice was increasing so much as to make him less desirous of continuing the occupation of a public writer, and we resigned the care of the Repository into the hands of Dr. Gordon Smith, who, although then in the prime of life, is now, also, numbered among the dead.
The portion of Dr. Darwall's life of which I have now treated, was one in which his hopes were yet undiminished, and his cares were not so accumulated as heavily to oppress him; yet, either from constant over-exertion, or a constitutional disposition to melancholy, or that consciousness, already alluded to, of possessing few popular qualities to set off his merit, his letters often bespoke a most deplorable depression of mind. Writing to me in June, 1825, of something he designed to do for the Repository, he adds, “ I am not a little glad to be obliged to do this work, for, at times, I am so depressed, that I almost could retire altogether, and ' shut the book and lay me down and die.' I have objects around me, it is true, for whose welfare I am anxious, and, to a certain degree, I have progressed in the lucrative part of my profession: but greater success has not brought' greater happiness, and I often look upon the past with sorrow, and upon the future without hope.” Yet this was written at a time when Dr. Darwall was in the fullest activity of his mind; and, communicating his thoughts to me on the subject of several undertakings proposed between us, in which he exhibited, at once, great ardour, and singular prudence and judgment. His letters, though generally written with haste, and never studied, were then, and always, full of information; and there are many portions of them which I should feel a pleasure in publishing, if I did not entertain as strong a dislike, as I know he himself felt, to any thing approaching to a violation of epistolary confidence. It was my custom, and that of several of his friends, to consult him on many and different subjects, and to refer to him the details of obscure cases met with in practice. In his replies to such applications, his sagacity and his candour were always very conspicuous.
Excepting a visit to Gloucester, of which I find
the recorded results in an account, in one of his
note-books, of the lunatic asylum and hospital of
that city, and in a letter, in which he describes to
me the pleasure he had experienced from having an
opportunity of seeing and conversing with Dr. Baron,
the distinguished biographer of Dr. Jenner, I believe
he seldom left home, even for one day, during
the nine years which he lived, after our visit to
London. The history of any one day, during all
this period, would be almost the history of his life.
He rose early, often wrote or studied before breakfast,
saw his patients with the utmost regularity, and
had, generally, gone through what, to many, would
have appeared a day's occupation, before eleven
o'clock, the hour when, of late years, he visited the
hospital. The interruptions of a physician's life, in
a large town, are almost incessant; and, knowing,
as I do, how much of this he had to suffer, I can only
express surprise when I consider the number of engagements
which he voluntarily incurred, and the
accuracy with which he found time to arrange his
thoughts on a great variety of professional and of
general subjects. During all these years, his casebooks
shew a continual attention to every thing
which occurred in his practice; and, besides several
small volumes filled with notes of single cases, he
had, on some particular subjects, collected so many
as to form the ground-work of essays, or of larger
works which he meditated, and which, if longer life
had been accorded to him, he would have completed.
To the Midland Medical and Surgical Reporter, of which, for a time, he was joint-editor with Dr. Hastings, he contributed papers on the medical statistics of Birmingham; on spinal and cerebral irritation; some cases of ovarian or encysted dropsy; observations on general dropsy; some cases of a peculiar species of paralysis; a case of diabetes insipidus; and some clinical observations. At the request of the publisher of Beck's valuable work on Medical Jurisprudence, he undertook to be the editor of a new edition of that work, which he enriched with some highly-instructive notes, often the result of his own observation. This was a subject which he had long taken every occasion of improving his mind upon; and, as the task of editing the work was first offered to myself, I knew that I should do the medical public a service by pointing him out as much better fitted for it.
His collections on the subject of dropsy were very numerous, and the result of many years' observation; although the substance of them appears to have been almost wholly condensed into the articles on the different forms of dropsy in the Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine. These articles, I may venture to say, possess much practical value: they are the products of experience and study, on the part of an author whose information was very extensive, and whose observation was singularly exact. After examining his very numerous case-books, it appears to me that most of the results which he had found time to deduce, as established by the instances therein with so much diligence preserved, were published, during his life-time, in the papers above mentioned; or in his admirable little book entitled Plain Instructions for the Management of Infants, with Practical Observations on the Disorders incident to Children; published in 1830; or in the observations appended to that work, on Several Forms of Spinal and Cerebral Irritation; or in the article on the Diseases of Artisans, in the Cyclopædia. Valuable cases, undoubtedly, occur, of almost every description, in his unpublished records, but, probably, only such as might be found in the case-books of most physicians of extensive practice. His remarks on bronchitis and phthisis, intended as the ground-work of a contribution to these Transactions, on the Curability of Phthisis, may, perhaps, be prepared to appear, although in an imperfect shape, in the next volume; and this may possibly be followed by some other selections.
The contemplation of the numerous practical memoranda accumulated by so industrious and able a physician, papers never, perhaps, after such inspection as I can afford time to give them, to occupy the careful regard of any human eye, suggests a melancholy commentary on the years of ardent exertion in which they were compiled, and on the faithful observations thus appearing to have been made, with great pains, only to be, when made, neglected. When it is considered, too, how many records of a similar kind must, at the death of each observant practitioner, share the same fate; how many designs are left unfinished; how many valuable thoughts pursued a little way and lost; we see a strong additional recommendation thus afforded, of every kind of meeting and society of medical practitioners, either local, or, as in this great Association, more general, by which the isolated knowledge of many minds may be concentrated, proved by multiplied comparisons, and so classified as to advance the science of medicine more rapidly. To me, who knew Dr. Darwall so intimately, every line of his practical writings comes with the strong conviction of their strict truth and invariable candour. His senses were so accurate, his imagination was so restrained, his memory so retentive, and his judgment so calm and admirable, that he was secured from the very common fault of being self-deceived by defective medical evidence; whilst his integrity made it impossible for him to attempt the deception of others. His disposition was so abhorrent to quackery, even the most indirect, and such as many men think compatible with respectability of character, that he even disdained to give to his opinions and his knowledge all the advantages of expression of which they were worthy; but he never published an opinion without being thoroughly satisfied of its truth, and the opinions published by him will seldom or never be found to be erroneous. Equal to his intense contempt for quacks and pretenders, and publishers of specious falsehoods, was his respect for all those writers of our own time by whom medicine has been improved. To possess their works, to know or to correspond with the authors, to make them his friends, and to do justice to their merits, were among the few pleasures for which he ever appeared to be anxious. In one of his letters, written ten years before his death, after speaking of his anxiety for more practice, he tells me that he has had a very friendly letter from a distinguished medical writer, and that it " enabled him to live quietly for a week without fees." In fact, his whole life was spent in making himself acquainted with what others had done, and in emulating their example.
Among the manuscripts left in so incomplete state that their publication would seem to be an injustice to the deceased, and yet which are not unworthy of him, I find several lectures on physiology, to some of which the mere list of authors appended, as having been referred to, shews the labour he had bestowed on this duty:─the commencement of a treatise on asphyxia; some papers containing facts and observations, many made by himself, on the general subjects of health and disease; an excellent but unfinished essay on vaccination, a subject in which he took a very lively interest; some further cases and observations connected with the subject of sudden deaths without apparent cause; notes which appear to be the heads of lectures on medicine, which he, perhaps, contemplated at some future time: remarks on a dissection of the brain, by Dr. Spurzheim, witnessed by him in 1828; notes on medical reform; short analyses of Cuvier, Shaw, and other writers on different branches of Natural History; notes on the history of printing, and on the progress of literature; the notes on printing having, probably, been made on the occasion of his delivering a lecture on that subject at Stratford, at my request, to the members of a tradesman's library, some years ago; notes on the early dramatists of England. These shew the activity of his mind, of which, however, as well as of his perseverance, his dispensary and hospital case-books are the principal monuments. His private case-book is continued to the day before-his last illness; and his manuscript notes of morbid anatomy terminate with a note of the case, the examination of which proved fatal to him, made on his return from the hospital, when he had no suspicion that he had that day imbibed the seeds of death, and that, after that day, he would never resume his active labours more.
About seven years before his death, he began to pay great attention to the science of botany, and, with his characteristic energy, collected numerous plants, consulted every author within his reach, provided himself with one of Dollond's microscopes, and devoted himself to the pursuit with as much ardour as if it had been his chief occupation. This was, in fact, his relaxation. He subsequently gave a course of lectures on the subject, to the medical students at Birmingham, of which the introductory lecture is published in the 8th number of the Midland Medical and Surgical Reporter. He found time, also, to make himself very accurately acquainted with the past revolutions of medical science, and wrote a history of medicine for the Society of Useful Knowledge, which will, in a short time, be published.
In the progress or the origin of several of the public institutions of Birmingham, he took an active share, often encountering opposition, but generally overcoming it. He laboured, soon after his appointment to the dispensary, to render that institution more widely serviceable to the poor of the town. The general and the medical libraries were always objects of his solicitude; of the latter he was one of the founders, and, of the founders, one of the most zealous. To his enthusiasm, combined with his perseverance, it is, I believe, in no small degree, to be attributed, that the inhabitants of Birmingham can now boast of a botanic garden, which promises to be among the finest in this kingdom: the interest he took in the general objects, and, even, in the minutest details of this undertaking, was of the strongest kind, and the last walk in which he indulged, was in those gardens, in company with a very zealous co-operator, his friend, Mr. Knott. Some years before his death, he was appointed one of the governors of the grammar-school, an office which extremely gratified him, and in which, as was usual with him, he earnestly strove to be useful; actively superintending the extensive alterations in the buildings, attending the meetings of the building committee, and feeling much anxiety concerning the adoption of such plans as might reflect honour on his native town, and diffuse instruction among the children of his fellow-townsmen. He gave some lectures, during one winter, at the rooms of the Philosophical Society; and, in short, endeavoured to contribute something to every useful establishment in the community of which he was a member. Except on a few occasions, he maintained, I think, some scruples concerning taking an active part in public meetings; but he, occasionally, attended the meetings of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, and, on some occasions, spoke. (In one of these occasions, he gave the following valuable testimony respecting the benefits of popular education: it was a meeting at which the bishop of the diocese presided. “In looking, my lord, to this resolution,” he says, “I perceive it has particular claims upon us; for one of its objects is to afford instruction to those immediately around us. In so large a population as this, there must always be much vice and much crime; but there is a much larger proportion of that which is the origin of vice and crime, I mean, of ignorance. I rejoice, my lord, that I live in times when so much activity is displayed in spreading information of every kind. I rejoice that even the poorest of my neighbours may become more acquainted than formerly with the intricacies of science; for I am sure that science is not unfavourable to religion, and I feel confident that, in those who are most accomplished in science, we shall find the warmest and ablest defenders of religion. But, though I know that there is in science nothing incompatible with religion, it is most true that it is a great good or a great evil, just as it may be directed. It is our part to take care, that no effort which we can make shall be spared to direct it aright.”
Dr. Darwall was appointed physician to the Birmingham Hospital in 1831, after the lamented death of Dr. De Lys, a physician held in the highest estimation, and who died of phthisis, at an age which might have promised him many more years of life and activity. Of this appointment Dr. Darwall had always been extremely ambitious, and, indeed, if by any accident he had not obtained it on this melancholy vacancy occurring, the disappointment would, assuredly, have very deeply affected him. But he had now passed eleven years at Birmingham, as a physician; his character was highly respected; and the confidence of the profession, and of the public, in his professional skill, was daily increasing. His friends were so numerous that, when the day of election came, the other candidates had withdrawn, and in a manner not a little gratifying to him. He had always been very sensible of the difficulty with which a physician, not attached to an hospital, can do much to improve medical knowledge, or even gain useful experience; and he was not insensible to the advantages which the appointment would reflect on his private practice, which, from this time, rapidly increased. The governors of the hospital never had a medical officer more desirous of efficiently performing his duties; and he shewed the interest he took in the advancement of the pupils, by immediately instituting clinical lectures; thus adding to his own labours, at a period when his time was daily becoming more valuable to him. His patience in investigating a disease was only exceeded by his perspicacity in detecting it, and his anxiety to cure it. He was of opinion (for the subject was often entertained by us) that the therapeutic part of medicine, and the distinction of diseases by symptoms, had, of late years, been too much neglected by many who were most sanguine in their views of the value of morbid anatomy; and whilst he never omitted an opportunity of enlarging his knowledge of the products of disease, his first anxiety always was, as that of every practitioner should surely be, to discover them during life, and to prevent or to remedy them. His continual care, added to his excellent abilities, and great professional learning, made him, in my estimation, a physician whose opinion was almost unerringly correct, and whose practice comprehended whatever was prudent and rational in the whole range of medical science, domestic or foreign, modern or ancient. His knowledge, in every department of his profession, was so full and so exact, that no one ever sought his opinion who went away unsatisfied. That these valuable qualities and acquirements were freely and extensively exercised, for the poor as well as the rich, is testified by the respect and affection with which his name is yet mentioned in every part of the populous town in which he lived: and that he always freely imparted his views to those who wished to be acquainted with them, many friends can bear testimony.
Among the medical men of his own neighbourhood, few held so honourable a rank. Many who, for a time, misunderstood or feared him, had learned to respect him by the casual introductions occurring in practice. He was resorted to in every difficulty; and the general practitioner felt that, with him, not only the patient, but the reputation of the medical adviser who had been previously employed, was secure. In all the common affairs of life, or occurring between medical men, he was often consulted by those only a few years younger than himself, like one whom long experience had made sage: and no perplexities of circumstances, no temptations to give pleasing but delusive counsel, ever led his upright mind astray from the principles of the most delicate honour.
Of the medical profession and character he took high and correct views; and although he distrusted, as well he might do, the common hands by which plans of reform were most likely to be moulded, he regretted the singular blindness of the highest association of physicians in England, to what their position might be, and to what it was. As was the case with Dr. Thackeray, he was not a Licentiate of the College of Physicians; and he thus added one more distinguished name to the many which would have reflected honour on the College, if, instead of an imbecile anxiety to preserve useless privileges, that College had exhibited an enlarged ambition, and sought to collect, within its walls, the learning and science and worth possessed by the great portion of the profession whom its constitution repelled; and who would have given it new strength now in the day of its need. His views of reform, as connected with the College, were such as appear to me to be entertained by all respectable provincial physicians: he did not seek to destroy, or to deface, but to liberalize, improve, and preserve an ancient institution. The day for so doing is, perhaps, gone by. The storm, which has so long been gathering, is at hand; and they who despised its early indications must abide its force.
Dr. Darwall always felt it to be a great advantage to reside in a town possessing so many intelligent and highly-educated men as were to be found in so large and important a place as Birmingham; and no meetings were so agreeable to him as those which were held by them in connection with the business of the Medical Benevolent Society of Birmingham, of which he was a very zealous member; or of the Medical Library, in the institution of which he had taken a very great interest. Among his numerous memoranda, are notes of the subjects of conversations in a society in which he frequently met with some of his most accomplished medical friends; including some curious circumstances illustrative of the effects of imagination on the fœtus; and of feigned defects or diseases. These are but insignificant instances of his continual mental activity; but to me, looking over his unfinished manuscripts, even such instances appear characteristic of one who never allowed an opportunity of acquiring knowledge to pass unprofited by, and who was daily increasing his information,─
“ And hiving wisdom with each studious year.”
The result of all was, that to every requisite in the character of an accomplished practitioner, Dr. Darwall united extensive learning, a large acquaintance with modern literature, and no small knowledge of several branches of science; for, in truth, there was no subject which had ever occupied the human understanding, on which he could be said to be quite uninformed, whilst with many he was very fully acquainted. His great general attainments, and his professional proficiency, were owing, doubtless, in the first place, to extraordinary mental capacity; and, in the second, to his never having allowed his time to be encroached upon by what less ambitious men consider pleasurable engagements. He was very indifferent to society, except the society of accomplished persons; and, of late years, he shunned every public amusement. As his youth had been passed without irregularity, so his maturer years were passed with uniform and strict propriety. He was fastidious as to the society of females, indifferent to music, he never played cards, and conviviality had no charms for him. As too often happens with studious men, he was, to a certain degree, insensible to the pleasures even of domestic life, although always to be found at home, and always evincing an extreme anxiety concerning the education of his daughters, and every prospective circumstance connected with the happiness of the objects of his tenderest affection. Of his affectionate attachment to his wife and children, to his parents, his sisters, and his brothers, several memorials, connected with many painful incidents, now remain, to which it is unnecessary to give publicity. His letters to myself on the occasion of the death of some of his relatives, breathe a tenderness of disposition to which he seldom permitted himself to give expression.
I would willingly close this account of him without alluding to his cares, his difficulties, and those honourable anxieties which had too surely prepared him to fall under any severe attack of illness. Although for the last two or three years of his life his practice had greatly increased, he had endured, for full ten years, all the restlessness of hope deferred; and, carefully maintaining his proper station in society, and scrupulously correct in all his payments, had found it necessary to incur extensive pecuniary engagements. There exists no reason, that I am aware of, for concealing that this circumstance preyed so heavily on his mind as to seem gradually to occupy his thoughts more and more exclusively. He knew the uncertainties of existence, and his constant hope was to live to be extricated from embarrassment, that his family might be benefited by a considerable insurance effected on his life. But man ever disquieteth himself in vain. The hopes which animated his mind were destined never to be fulfilled; the fears which made him sleepless were destined never to leave him until he became insensible to all impressions; and, although, after his decease, a just and generous public made his family its own especial care, such was the independence of his character, that, if he could have foreseen that that was to be the end of all his struggles, the prospect would have broken his heart.
This painful part of the history of Dr. Darwall, painful to be read, painful to write, has been but too much the general history of young physicians. Occupied in the task of relieving human sufferings, encountering fatigue and danger, and with few of the rewards of ambitious life before them, often stimulated solely by the desire of doing good, they are too frequently a prey to cares and pains, far worse than those from which they are exerting themselves to relieve others: and whilst they carry comfort and hope into every sick chamber, feel those blessings still denied to themselves. From no store-house of illustration may the pathologist gather ampler materials of the effect of the depressing passions, than from his own profession. He may there perceive, in instances too many, how perpetual care may interrupt each healthy function, and induce disorders which no medical art can cure. Highly educated, sensitive, accustomed to some of the elegancies of life, their habits not well fitting them for worldly competitions, how many have I known who have suffered every pang which common difficulties could inflict on noble minds, and, after suffering for a time, have sunk; or, if surviving their difficulties, have done so with feelings irretrievably deadened, and a sadness of heart which no improvement of fortune could effectually remove! There is something wrong in their position when such examples are not infrequent; and as there are few physicians who, having conquered their difficulties, could endure the bare idea of going through the struggle again, it becomes a serious question how far any members of the profession are justified, if not possessed of an ample fortune, in devoting themselves to a branch of practice which holds out no promise of a competency until two-thirds of the usual term of human life have been passed in anxiety. My friend felt this anxiety so greatly, it was so often the subject of his conversation, that, although it cannot now be said to have been excessive in relation to its causes, I sometimes thought it my duty to remonstrate with him on the indulgence of a feeling which did not seem entirely consistent with the trust in Providence to be expected from a man of such sincere piety, and which was evidently doing injury to his habitual thoughts and feelings. I have repeatedly represented to him the sure foundation on which that public esteem which he could not but see gathering round him, was founded; that it was honestly gained and would wear well; and that there was a certain prospect for him of an almost immediate practice, so large as to free him, in a few years, from every difficulty. Man's wordly wisdom is as vain as his disquietude. All these expectations, which I was fully justified in representing to him, and which he, at times, indulged in with reasonable hope, were frustrated at once. Just as the prospect about him was clearing, and years of reputation and of independence, or, even, of wealth, seemed to be opening upon him, a slight accident, acting upon a frame rendered very irritable and feeble by mental restlessness, extinguished his life almost without any effort or appearance of resistance in his constitution.
This memoir, however imperfect, will be perused by many who, having known something of Dr. Darwall, will be interested in anything that recalls his name. It will, also, be looked into by some who, perhaps, acquainted with my deceased friend, and with myself, may feel some kind of curiosity to learn in what manner I have touched on certain points connected with the opinions held by Dr. Darwall on the important subjects of religion and politics: opinions which had so constant an influence on his conduct and were so conspicuously proclaimed on many occasions, as not to be passed over in silence. On this subject, which I approach with some reluctance, but which cannot be wholly avoided, I shall express myself with truth and freedom, but without exaggeration. The office of the biographer is not to render the praise of the dead worthless by making it indiscriminate, nor yet to conciliate the favour of the living by disingenuous concealments; but to instruct by the examples which he describes. All who knew Dr. Darwall, knew that he was most zealously attached to the Church of England. Of that church his father, his grandfather, and his great grandfather, had been ministers, and his ancestors steady adherents. The manner in which he sometimes avowed this attachment, was certainly such as to raise a suspicion in the minds of those little acquainted with him, that his religion was merely the religion of party, or that political religion which an acute foreign writer has severely observed to be almost the only religion known in England. Although no imputation could be more unjust, I will not affect a surprise which I do not feel, that it should have been attached to him. Of those most clamorous, in this country, for allying the church with temporal power, although some are distinguished by that habitual charity which arises from a frequent communion with their Maker, the proofs of whose mercy they delight to contemplate, there are unfortunately, many whose chief enjoyment seems to be to represent that Maker merely as a being of anger, and terror, and revenge. Take from them the hatred of their neighbours, and the privilege of “ dealing damnation” on all who differ from them, and all that they called their religion has left them. With them, a readiness to raise a party cry is a symbol of orthodoxy, and justifies the most indecent neglect of the true interests of the church. If Dr. Darwall sometimes appeared to countenance such vulgar bigotry, he could not escape imputations alike unjust and degrading. But no member of the church less deserved to be numbered with the mob of the bitter and the intolerant: and if he, occasionally, appeared more to favour them than beseemed a man of his acquirements and understanding, this fault was more than atoned for by the sincerity and the fervour of his own piety, and by his irreproachable life. No day ever passed without his thoughts being turned to a subject which he always considered to be, and always spoke of, as of the first importance. He had read, with much attention, the works of most of the great divines whose learning and whose virtue reflected honour on the church of which he professed himself a member; and had, if I may so speak, imbibed, from the perusal, an habitual devotion, but without a tinge of fanaticism. Few general readers were so conversant with the writings, of Barrow, of South, of Hooker, of Horne, and of him the most attractive, perhaps, of all, the imaginative and pious Jeremy Taylor; whose works, the reflection of his truly Christian spirit, alluring many readers by splendid images and words of captivating eloquence, have sometimes made religious thoughts familiar to minds which would have turned away from religion invested with monkish gloom, or leaning for support on mere temporal authority.
Dr. Darwall was a punctual attendant on the services of the church; and no one better knew or more undisguisedly deplored the coldness, the indifference, and the worldliness, which he saw to pervade those services, and all the evils which he beheld them bringing in their train: he frequently inveighed against the neglect of the study of divinity in those intended for the church; nor did any member of the church more honour the bright exceptions to these faults, existing in some of his most intimate and most valued clerical friends. He marked the close of every year, in the books in which he kept an account of the fees he had received in the course of it, by a Latin prayer; and these affecting compositions, which I have been permitted to see since his death, contain the sentiments of a pure and grateful heart, relying on the Creator in all that befell him, submissive in trial, and thankful for benefits and support.
On the less serious subject of his political opinions, I shall say little. I have long wondered to see men and neighbours divided into hostile parties, seeking, with eagerness, to destroy the fame of those whose opinions on the best form of government differ from their own; forgetting, it would seem, the possibility of two persons, with equally honest intentions, forming very different judgments, on a subject concerning which men are only beginning to discern any correct principles. The explanation of all this rancour is, perhaps, to be sought for in the interested motives with which political opinions of every cast are usually taken up and maintained. Dr. Darwall was uninfluenced by any such motives; he was a warm and disinterested patriot; but, at the same time, as may be supposed from what has already been said, a zealous Tory; and such being the party he espoused, it was in his character to become one of the most open and fearless assertors of sentiments which, to persons of a different way of thinking, appeared to betray some indifference to the happiness of mankind. His benevolence, I doubt not, would have prevented him, if he had possessed the power, from acting entirely up to the opinions he avowed: but his benevolence was more dependent on the uprightness of his mind, and his sense of duty, than on warmth of feeling. The frequent spectacle of popular processions in such a town as Birmingham; perhaps an unpleasant personal experience of such assemblies; a strong distrust of many popular leaders; a constitutional apprehension of whatever threatened to interrupt the order of society; gradually ripened what had at first been little more than an attachment to the principles of a party in which he had many friends, into a zeal for every form of power, wherever exercised against the people, and a want of sympathy with any nations in which the people strove to throw off a tyranny, however intolerable. It was not that he took any delight in the sufferings of mankind, but he doubted their being emancipated from them by the struggles which others viewed with enthusiasm. In such doubts many men, of all parties, may consistently concur; but it was painful to me to see how, even in so well exercised a mind as that of Dr. Darwall, these habits of thinking, not calmly indulged, led, by almost imperceptible degrees, to the renunciation of any cheering belief in the progressive improvement of well-governed communities, and to melancholy doubts whether arts, letters, free forms of government, and popular education, ever had conduced, or ever would add, to the positive happiness of mankind. The unhappy tendency of these views was, latterly, very observable in Dr. Darwall's letters and conversation; his reflections on what he thought the impending fate of; his country filled him with dejection and distress; insomuch that, for the last year or two of his life, he saw the propriety of diverting his thoughts from politics; and, even, discontinued his attendance at the news-room, that he might not read the newspapers. There were few subjects, on which we differed, in which I was not inclined to respect his opinions more than my own: and on these great subjects of religion and of politics, if I cannot deny that he was open to the charge of intolerance, I may, with solemn truth, aver that he was most sincere in his own belief. And, indeed, when I recollect some memorable occasions on which I have seen him in the society of those who totally differed from him in religious faith, and, above all, when I recollect our unbroken friendship, which his dying hour only terminated, I feel that I am almost guilty of harshness in admitting that to be intolerance which, principally observable in his animated discourse, imparted no asperity to his conduct, led him into no act of injustice, and left the sanctuary of his heart undefiled.
If my departed friend is conscious of these words, he knows that they are written with a sacred regard to that truth which he now beholds more nearly and clearly; and by one whose affection for his memory forbids the possibility of any intentional misrepresentation. I have now but to record the events of his last illness, so accidental in its origin, so rapid in its progress, so fatal in its end.
It has already been said that Dr. Darwall's health had been impaired by his anxieties. To this cause must be added his incessant exertions. He seemed almost incapable of repose. To do nothing, or to be delayed, or to be long in one place, or to be compelled to make sacrifices of time to society, seemed to become more and more intolerable to him. His mind was for ever at work. Relaxation, lounging unemployed, idle conversation or diversions, convivial pleasures, everything of that kind seemed unnecessary or tormenting to him. His desire to be acquainted with every able publication of the day, either professional or literary, or relating to any science, filled up most of the, intervals of his busily employed time. It was very rare to find that others had read a book of which he knew nothing: he even read many books of mere amusement, and he sometimes regretted the tendency of the present age to efface too rapidly the imaginative pleasures of the young by a premature introduction to physical science, which he thought less useful to them than such nursery tales as illustrated "right and generous feelings." Latterly, however, if he read works of amusement, it was with eager haste, and in such a sort as if he scorned himself that could be pleased with such productions. His correspondence was extensive, but when he wrote a letter, he soon quitted light subjects, and detailed the more important thoughts with which his labouring breast was filled. His mind was never vacant, or in a state to be pleased or even amused with trifles. The labour which he. voluntarily underwent every day, was, in reality, too much for his physical powers. At one time he tried to rouse his jaded faculties by wine, although the most temperate of mea, and one whom wine never elated; then abandoning the use of wine entirely, or nearly so, he had recourse to coffee, of which he would sometimes partake immoderately. Thus he persevered in a determination to do, by some means or other, a certain quantity of work, for which natural strength was denied him; and no exhortations of his friends, no persuasions, could produce in his mind any conviction of the important fact, that to do what he was determined to do, could not be done with health preserved, and that what he needed, far more than any stimulants, was some rest, some cessation from toil, some tranquil time in which the composure and the strength of his nervous system might be, to a certain extent, regained. But he felt and expressed this conviction to me when it was quite too late to profit by it.
In fact, he had struggled against his warning feelings for years. He remarked, in the last conversation he was capable of holding with me, only six days before his death, that if he had taken some rest and relaxation two years before, he should not have been brought into the debilitated state in which he found himself. But even nine years before, he felt the misery of energies over tasked; and wrote to me of himself, with prophetic truth, that he was “ almost one of those wretched beings whom Lord Byron describes,
Their breath is agitation, and their life
A storm whereon they ride, to sink at last. ”
He was then harassed by business of various descriptions, connected with his property; he was laboriously occupied, and with little profit; and for many a year, or even to the last, his mind was not only continually employed, but even irritated, and almost continually over-exerted.
This being his habitual state, it was not to be wondered at that the function of digestion should become imperfectly performed; that he should experience irregularities of the circulation, sometimes painfully affecting his head, and sometimes disturbing the action of the heart. On one or two occasions, he suffered severe attacks of a description of cholera; although not at the time when the disease was prevalent in England. His nights were frequently very restless; and in his tumultuous sleep he was subject to convulsive actions of different voluntary muscles; never, however, so severe or general as to constitute a paroxysm. The trouble of his bodily health reacted upon his mind: he became more impatient, more anxious, more responding of his prospects, or more sensible of the difficulties with which he had to struggle, even when his prospects were rapidly improving. Clear and bright, amidst all this trouble, the light of his intellect continued to shine, undiminished by care, and unimpaired by bodily languor. Nothing which was in progress in medical knowledge escaped him; and his interest in the public undertakings to which he had given his time or his attention suffered no abatement. Yet his state, amidst this unwearied activity, was such as to occasion me, who saw him but occasionally, some misgivings as to his long continuing to enjoy life; whilst on those who saw him daily, the impression it produced was such that, when he incurred the accident now to be mentioned, they at once despaired of his recovery.
In his Hospital Book, bearing the date of July 30, 1833, the last note made by my lamented friend is found, relating to the examination of a body that day in the hospital. The note is headed Medullary Sarcoma of the Bronchial Glands; and it is observed that the subject of the case had been a patient of Dr. Booth. "The left lung was infiltrated with pus, and the left pleura was inflamed, as was, also, the pericardium; there was a very large quantity of serum in this pleura, and the pericardium was very much distended with a dark coffee-coloured fluid. The bronchial glands of this side were very much enlarged, and changed, for the most part, into a white medullary mass, which involved the left primary division of the bronchi; and though the wrinkled state of the lining membrane enabled us to trace its passage, the colour was lost, as, also, was most of the cartilaginous substance. A part of this medullary mass was quite soft, and almost fluid, and in another part it had a pinkish hue. There were, also, some fibrous white bands traceable."
These, I believe, were the last words ever written by Dr. Darwall, and they conclude by a date of the day on which he wrote them, a particular he often omitted, but the accidental insertion of which makes it impossible for a friend to view this last record of his indefatigable observation without emotion. On that day Dr. Darwall dined early, and afterwards accompanied Mr. Knott, who had dined with him, to the botanic garden, in which they both took, as has already been remarked, a very active interest. He drank tea late, with his friend and relative Mr. Whateley, who left him in his usual health. He sat an hour in his dressing-room, reading a botanical work which happened to lie on the table, and, on going to bed, fell into a comfortable sleep. He had, indeed, retired after a day of considerable exertion, with unusual feelings of comfort and health. But he was never to know them again. About two in the morning he awoke, feeling very cold; and so violent a lit of shivering ensued, that, being alone, in consequence of his family being then at Malvern, he rang up his servant to make him some coffee, which was always his favourite restorative. He found, on making the attempt to get out of bed, that to do so required a great degree of effort. After taking some coffee, he began to suffer from intense heat, accompanied with severe burning pain in the head. It was now between three and four o'clock in the morning, and his friends Dr. Male and Mr. Wickenden were summoned to see him. Notwithstanding the great sense of heat which he suffered from, he complained of being chilly all over him, the term being employed, perhaps, to express an indescribable sensation accompanying the heat; he seemed, also, to be suffering great distress, without adequate cause: his countenance had an anxious expression; the skin was hot; the pulse small, rapid and weak; the tongue dry, and the stomach disturbed. He had, for some time, been occasionally troubled with patches of psoriasis on his left hand, and in this hand he had observed that he had sharp pain in the morning of the preceding day, at the dissection. Before going to bed, he had applied nitrate of silver to some patches of this kind, which he had been in the habit of doing when the patches felt uncomfortably. When Mr. Wickenden was examining the patches, Dr. Darwall complained of uneasy sensations in the arm, and a small gland in the axilla was found to be hot, painful on pressure, and hard. It now, for the first time, occurred to him, that the occurrences in the dissecting room might have some connection with his present state of disturbance.
The nature of the disorder became sufficiently clear to suggest the immediate recall of Mrs. Darwall and his daughters, from Malvern. By Mrs. Darwall's kindness I was, in a day or two, made acquainted with these unexpected and unwelcome circumstances. I shall hurry over the melancholy sequel. Little expecting how these symptoms would terminate, I only saw him occasionally during his short illness. Dr. John Johnstone, Dr. Male, Mr. Hodgson, and Mr. Wickenden, watched him with the utmost care, and for several days entertained pretty confident hopes of his recovery; or, at least, Mr. Wickenden's intimate knowledge of Dr. Darwall's peculiar constitution, led him alone to doubt it. When I visited my friend, two days after his attack, and again in two days more, there was little, to ordinary observation, calculated to alarm. He was more than usually restless, and very anxious speedily to be well: he slept ill; his pulse was frequent, and there was an evident febrile state, but far from intense: and his muscular strength was much less than his energy of will. He had severe pains, now and then, in his shoulders and back. The secretions from the kidneys exhibited the most marked departure from health, being scanty, and very dark. His mind was extremely active, and his disposition to talk required restraint. Once or twice, after being ill four days, he misplaced his words in speaking. He not infrequently spoke of medical subjects, and with his usual judgment and good sense; and he was cheerful, and entertained no apprehension of worse consequences than he had already incurred. When I saw him two days after that, it was disheartening to find that the restlessness, the agitation the quick pulse, still remained: his mind had become a little affected: he had convinced himself that his pains were rheumatic, and of the kind described by Fothergill, whose description he wished to have read to him. Other symptoms, not calculated to encourage those about him, had come on; but none which were of a nature to deprive them of hope. Engagements, which could not be postponed, obliged me, on that day, to go to London; and when I saw him, four days afterward, (on the 10th of August) he was dying. I now reflect, with surprise, that I was so unprepared to find him so: but there is an unwillingness, it would seem, in the mind, to associate the idea of death with that of activity and life in those to whom we are attached, and whom we have only known as the participators of all life's active engagements. He was quite sensible; and I had the melancholy gratification of seeing him recognise me, and rouse himself to make au effort to speak to me in his customary tone of kind enquiry.
Medical men are not strangers to the scenes of bereavement which are presented by families overtaken by such sudden and hopeless calamities; and to the sacred sorrows of those who loved him I shall attempt to give no expression. But far beyond the limits of that house of mourning was felt the sorrow which Dr. Darwall's death occasioned. His friends, and the whole medical profession, felt that a most valuable member of society had been taken from them: his neighbours, and the inhabitants of Birmingham in general, strongly expressed the concern this unexpected loss had occasioned them; and among the poor many tears were shed, by those who had lost one of their kindest friends, and many a humble but heartfelt prayer was offered up, to that heaven in which such prayers find acceptance, for his eternal welfare.
In accordance with wishes very generally expressed, his funeral was a public one; and on the 16th of August his mortal remains were deposited in the family vault at Christ Church. Every physician and surgeon of the hospital and of the dispensary; almost all the lecturers and pupils of the medical school of Birmingham; many of the practitioners from surrounding towns, and a great number of the principal inhabitants, followed the procession, through crowded and silent streets, to the grave. The funeral service of the church, which none can hear at any time quite unaffected, was read with impressive solemnity by the Rev. Mr. Hook, whose well-known regard for him for whom he performed that last office of friendship, added to its deep effect on this most sad occasion.
When a mind so remarkable for its well-directed activity as that which animated the frame of him of whom I have traced these mournful recollections, is thus suddenly extinguished in the insensibility of death, and all the hopes it had conceived are lost, and all the cares, and alike the aspirations, of which it was conscious, have ended in results so unfinished, like the fragments of some broken design; the first unavoidable impression, made by such an instance, is, that it constitutes a bitter and disheartening commentary on the ardour, the industry, the self-denial of early years; and even on the virtuous exertions of manhood. Left, we know not why, to act a few years longer in a scene from which one whom we loved has, all at once, disappeared, we look around for some explanation; and, finding none, exclaim that man is altogether vanity. Failing to comprehend a destiny so incomplete and inscrutable, we anxiously desire some assurance, stronger than our trust, that the moral improvement of those departed, and their ministry in the moral creation, may yet be continued, although in another sphere; with objects clearer, and with hopes enlarged. Perplexed with such feelings, there is no relief for us except in unqualified resignation to the will of Him by whose permission the soul, which he has so soon recalled, was permitted to fulfil what, to our blindness, appears an incomplete sphere of earthly duty. All proud attempts to account for God's doings end in dissatisfaction: our hopes are baffled by the ignorance with which our life is encompassed; and our affections find no solace but in the everlasting truth that the power on which we all depend, is associated with perfect wisdom and unfailing goodness. It is not (as was said of old, and has oftentimes been repeated) ours to say what part we shall take, or when it shall end; but to perform our part well, whatever it may be, and howsoever it may close.
Lamenting, as his friends cannot but lament, the untimely death of Dr. Darwall, they may still reflect that length of days, and wealth, and honours, could have added but little to the just reputation which it was his happiness to have gained in early life; and that, although he died young, the regret of grateful citizens, and the esteem of all who knew him, were gathered round his tomb.
- Upon the fly-leaf of his father's copy of the Inaugural Dissertation published by Dr. Darwall, in Edinburgh, in 1821, are the following lines in Dr. D.'s hand-writing. " This volume is presented to the Rev. John Darwall, as a small but sincere memorial of gratitude for parental solicitude, exerted towards the author through many years, with equal judgment and kindness. That as he has lived to see this first production, so that he may live to reap more mature and solid benefits from the author's exertions, is the sincere prayer of his affectionate son, John Darwall."
- By Whittaker & Co. London, and Beilby, Knott, & Co. Birmingham.
- See vol. I. of the Transactions.
- The father of Dr. Darwal1's great grandfather was a country gentleman, and resided in Cheshire; his son, the clergyman, is one of those “reverend and learned” men whom Nicholls mentions, in his Literary Remains, as having had personal disputes with the then rising sect of Methodists.
- It may here, perhaps, be permitted to me to mention the intimacy subsisting between my late friend and the Rev. Mr. Hook, of Coventry, for whom he entertained the highest respect; and, also, to introduce the name of the Rev. Mr. Moore, of Alrevas, near Lichfield, to whom Dr. Darwall had been known from his youth, and whom he greatly regarded. It might wound the delicacy of these truly excellent clergymen if I were to say more on this subject: but their esteem for Dr. Darwall has been most affectionately evinced since his death; and, on the other hand, Dr. Darwall was never more animated than when dwelling on the support given by the talents and example of such men to the Church which he wished to prosper.
- I cannot refrain from quoting a passage here, which occurs in one of his numerous letters to me, and which, besides the lively account it contains of the preaching of a celebrated dissenter, is, in other respects, very characteristic of Dr. Darwall's epistolary style.─"Within the last two or three days, amidst several other books, I have had Sir Thomas Browne's works given me, containing, among other things, his Enquiry into Vulgar Errors, and Religio Medici. I do not wonder that the latter should have been very popular. There is an easiness of style about it, with such an extraordinary fertility of ideas, as perfectly astonishes me. The more I become acquainted with the authors of that day, the more do I feel my opinion of the men of the present age humbled. Why is it that whatever was done then so abounded in rich illustration, powerful statement, striking antithesis, exuberant power of language, to which we seem such utter strangers? Have we less industry or less genius; or are the minds of the highly-gifted amongst us turned into other sources; or is it that we have only a few, and those the very best writers of the age, who were popular in their own day. Be it as it may, the press labours, and the paper mills scarcely suffice to supply the daily and nightly scribblers, and yet not one, whom I know, can be compared to the giants that flourished in those days. After this, you will be hardly prepared for anything like praise of a cotemporary, and yet I shall be hardy enough to venture on it. On Sunday last (this was in September, 1824) I heard Robert Hall, of Leicester; and I really was astonished at the man. I do not know if you have heard him or not. If not, suppose to yourself a man of common appearance, and weak voice, and yet, merely by the powers of his mind, commanding the undivided attention of his congregation. Not to have heard such a man, is, in my feeling, a loss in the path of life. He is as superior to Irving as manly intellect to brute force; as the mind of the author, to the mountebank ism of the actor; as the lofty and towering oak, to the shadow that it casts upon the ground. I was disappointed in the commencement; but, in the course of his sermon, there were such bursts of real chaste eloquence, as have not fallen to my lot to hear. He preaches, you know, extempore; and yet he never was in want of a word. He began without hesitation, and he continued gathering vehemence and energy as he proceeded, till he was completely wrapt in his subject; yet never departed from even a logical arrangement."
- Among the consolations of this afflicting time, none was more gratefully felt than the kind sympathy evinced by the medical friends of Dr. Darwall resident in Birmingham. Their solicitude during his illness, and their noble generosity, after the event was determined by death, are things reflecting honour on a profession of which liberality and benevolence are the brightest and the most habitual ornaments.