Blaker Family of Sussex - Reminiscences
Medical Practice in Old Times.
DOCTORS occasionally came into the village, but not often, there being but little illness, and it being considered necessary to have a doctor only for severe cases. They were always on horseback and dressed, as a rule in summer, in dark swallow-tailed coats and brass buttons, light waistcoat and breeches, top-boots and spurs and large white tie and white frill. Having to rely entirely on themselves, they were, as far as I could judge, quick at an emergency and in recognising the symptoms of disease, men of sound judgement, and good practitioners, with a professional air of profound wisdom. Professional jealousy ran very high, and it was reported that, meeting in a narrow lane, two neighbouring practitioners literally charged at each other because neither would give way to the other. Quacks occasionally appeared, notably one at Cuckfield, who brought with him a cartload of crutches and sticks which had been left by those he had miraculously cured. His fame spread rapidly, and people from far and near flocked to him.
The rustics were very credulous, and Mr. Lawrence Smith used to relate a conversation he had with one of his farm labourers: "Have you heard, sir, of the wonderful man at Cuckfield? He cures everyone. I was told that a man went to him on crutches. He took the crutches away and told him to walk, and first he walked, and then he ran, and then he flew."
"And what became of him then?" asked Mr. Smith.
"Why, sir, someone with a gun could not make him out and shot him."
We may laugh at the simplicity and credulity of this old labourer, but is it much greater than that of some enlightened people of the present day, who run after any new remedy or other novelty, however absurd, if only it is sufficiently advertised; or than that of the anti-vaccinationists and anti-vivisectionists, upon whom the curse of Thersites: "May folly and ignorance, the common curse of mankind, be thine in great revenue," seems to have rested?