My Youth And Education
( Originally Published 1924 )
THE MAJORITY of people who write autobio- graphics seem to think that the details of their entry into this vale of tears is of intense interest to the public. Suffice it to say that I was born in Bay Street, Toronto, on January 21st, 1855. I will pass over the fascinating details of my various infantile maladies and say that at the tender age of eight years I was sent to boarding school. Later I was sent to Gait Grammar School, presided over by the celebrated Dr. Tassie. The Doctor was an Irish gentleman, a great scholar and a man of most distinguished appearance. Mrs. Tassie managed the boarding house and was one of the kindest, most warm-hearted Irishwomen imaginable. The Doctor was imbued with the idea that to spare the rod spoiled the child and he certainly lived up to the principle. All and sundry passed through the regular course of flagellation. The " taws" were at work from morning until night. Whether the system was good or bad it is nevertheless true that he developed some fine men who took distinguished places in later years. Having finished school, the question which faces all parents, became urgent. What shall we do with the boy? At first I thought I would like to go into business and wasted several months at a business college.
I did not find the study of profit and loss and percentages to my liking. I happened to have a cousin who practised medicine in the little town of Sag Harbour, Long Island, and as it was at that time the custom to apprentice a student to a doctor for his first year, I went to the quaint old whaling town to learn to be a doctor. What I really learnt was patience, by holding the horse for hours while Dr. George Sterling made his house to house visits. I helped to burn a good deal of midnight oil, for there was no gas in the town, while endeavoring to amuse pretty girls, a branch of the study of psychology which I found very much to my taste. From time to time I studied " bones" and formed a slight acquaintance with various drugs. I acted as assistant midwife in a number of cases and held the sponges when the doctor was doing an operation. I also spent a pleasant few weeks as resident in a temporary smallpox hospital, where I occasionally officiated as undertaker_ Having concluded my "studies" in Sag Harbour I entered Trinity Medical College, Toronto. Dr. Hodder was Dean of the School and lectured on Obstetrics. He was a very distinguished old man and one of the fathers of medical education in Ontario. His assistant was Dr. Algernon Temple, then a young man just beginning practice. Dr. Geikie was Professor of Medicine, energetic, hardworking and the possessor of a fine Scotch burr_ Hughie Roberson tried to arouse enthusiasm over the bones, for he loved them like a father. Dr. Norman Bethune occupied the surgical chair and produced his notes written on odd scraps of paper. Dr. Ellis haltingly described what took place when an alkali and an acid came into contact. Old Cockney John was porter, much interested in "subjects." They have nearly all passed away, but it was a great school and what was taught, was taught thoroughly. This was before the time when a student was expected to learn the minute anatomy of a newt, but the school turned out some fine practising doctors and was at the height of its career when it went into amalgamation with the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1902. I may he permitted to doubt if in the long run this pooling of medical schools has been in the best interest of the student. Competition, it is said, is the life of trade, and a friendly and fair competition among medical schools is, in my opinion, productive of good. But an independent existence for Trinity Medical College was not to be, for when Trinity University went into union with Toronto University, we were also absorbed.
In due course I graduated ALB_ in 1875, but being under age I was not allowed to take my examination for the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. My parents' kindness and self-sacrifice made it possible for me to go to Europe to continue my studies. Accordingly in June 1 sailed for Liverpool.
I proceeded to Edinburgh, by way of Glasgow and the Trossachs, where I soon settled down to work. At that time Joseph Lister was developing the system of antisepticism which has revolutionized surgery. His method at that time was most cumbersome. Carbolized steam spray and elaborate dressings were used. The surgeon and his assistants lived in an atmosphere of carbolic acid spray to the detriment of their health. Lister was excitable, fussy and meticulous. Dr. Fred. L. Grassett was his house surgeon. One of my teachers was Dr. Robert Bell, who was the prototype of Sherlock Holmes. He used the deductive methods since attributed to Conan Doyle, who was a student under him. He used to astonish patients, whom he had not seen before, by his apparent knowledge of their life histories. These histories he deduced from the dress, walk, complexion, condition of the hands, and speech.
I enjoyed my work, but with the corning of the fall, easterly gales and torrents of rain affected my health to such an extent that I felt I must change my abode, so I took ship from Leith to Dunkirk, wandered through Belgium, and so on to Paris. On my way south I stopped a day in Mons, an interesting old fortified town. Little did I think that one of my sons would lead his battery into this town forty-three years later at the conclusion of the world's greatest war. I arrived in Paris on a Saturday night and great was my surprise on getting up on Sunday morning to find everybody at work. My first thought was of breakfast_ I did not know enough French to ask for a Cafe Complet, so I started off to find something to eat. I walked for miles and interviewed a number of restaurant keepers—at least they did the talking—but I got no breakfast. Finally I arrived at the Place de la Madeline and saw a fine café. I boldly entered it and demanded breakfast, and as the waiter spoke English I got a sumptuous one. But it cost me ten francs, which was a large price in those days.
In the course of a few days I found lodgings in the Latin quarter, Rue de Seine No. 20, where I remained during the year I spent in Paris. It was a very old building and had evidently been the residence of some noble in the old days. The woodwork of the room I occupied was wonderful. I found a French teacher, a retired captain in the army, and set to work diligently to learn the language.
Student life on the Continent of Europe is very delightful. One has no present responsibilities. One studies or not as the mood dictates. As most students are poor, so all are on the same social plane, hence one lives cheaply as others do and one is not controlled by the laws of fashion in clothes or conventions.
Some study, some do not; for myself I worked, because my future depended upon the knowledge I acquired. I played sometimes, for all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. There were some great physicians and surgeons in Paris then as now. Ricord was the greatest syphilograph of his day. He held his clinic in the garden of the hospital in summer, when he talked about his subject in an informal conversational way. Bouchut was an interesting man. It was he who showed that the only infallible sign of death is to be found in the changes which take place in the eye after death. Charcot was a great neurologist. His clinics at La Salpetriere were dramatic spectacles, especially his demonstrations of hypnotism, then quite a new science. I chiefly frequented L'Hopital de La Charite, where Gosselin was the attraction. He was a merry, rubicund little man and a great surgeon. It is curious that at that time all the leading oculists of Paris were of foreign birth. De Wecker was an Austrian; Panas, a Greek; Galezowski, a Pole; and Landolt, a Swiss. They all had fine clinics maintained at their own expense, where one learned a great deal. At the School of Anatomy one had plenty of subjects, for about the cheapest thing in Paris was a cadavre.
I was a regular inscribed student at the Faculty of Medicine and attended the lectures given there. One day I found myself shut in and the place surrounded by police and soldiers. There was an emeute, caused by some dissatisfaction among the students. A few were arrested, but we had all to pass the gauntlet of the police inspection.
Opposite the Faculty of Medicine there stood a house with a turret on the corner, which has since been pulled down to make way for improvements in the Boulevard St. Germain. It was in this house that Charlotte Corday killed Marat while in his bath. From its shape it was known as a "slipper" bath and is now in the Municipal Museum. In the construction of this Boulevard many old buildings were demolished, one of which had a curious history. When I saw it, it was used as a warehouse for crockery and glassware. In it the Revolutionary Tribunal, during the Reign of Terror, held its sittings. In the centre was a large open space and around for two stories were galleries in which the people sat and watched the bloody Tribunal at its cruel work. Prisoners were brought in, condemned without trial and ordered to be executed. The president said " You may go." The prisoner went out by a door leading into a small courtyard and was immediately butchered ; for all prisoners did not die by the guillotine.
Casual visitors to Paris have the idea that the French are an idle, pleasure-loving people. This is far from the fact, for having lived among them I can say that they are a most industrious, thrifty people. In fact thrift is almost an obsession with them and is one of the principal causes of the low birth rate.
I tried living in a French family to improve my knowledge of the language, but had to quit as I was nearly starved. We waste more in a Canadian home than would feed a French family. The French are light-hearted, but very conservative. Tradition plays a great part in public and family life. While there is less romance about student life in Paris to-day than there was, the student body is something apart. But there remains the romance of history and of fiction. The life depicted in Murger's " Vie de Boheme" no longer exists, but the creations of Balzac's great genius leave a trail. One can fancy the Three Musketeers swaggering about the streets of the old quarters, many of which, like the Rue Monsieur le Prince, are little changed. The great figure of Napoleon Bonaparte stalks about in the Latin Quarter. The garret of Napoleon was supposed to be located in the Quarter, but it has been proved that he never occupied a garret. This was a fiction created for political purposes.
But he frequented the house of Mme. de Permon. We get from her an idea of his appearance in 1785. " I remember the day he put his uniform on, " she says. "He was as delighted as all young men are at such a time. One item of his dress (a blue uniform with red facings, white buttons, the three-cornered hat and sword) gave him a ridiculous appearance, for he wore an enormous pair of boots which, with his thin legs, looked absurd. We all burst out laughing, at which he was quite incensed. He said to my daughter, 'It is easy to see that you are nothing but a boarding-school miss.' To which she replied, 'And you look like a Puss in Boots.' " A year or two later he was so poor that he had to pawn his watch to buy food, and supped for six sous in the Rue des Saints Peres. But to-day the mighty and glorious dome of the Invalids covers his splendid tomb and his name is one of which every Frenchman is proud.
The ordinary tripper or the fashionable visitor to Paris sees a bright, gay city thronged with loungers who seem to have nothing to do but to amuse themselves. Automobiles (lash past filled with fashionably dressed women and men. The sun shines brightly, the sky is blue and gaily apparelled crowds throng the Bois de Boulogne. But go, as I have done, to the night refuges where the failures and the unfortunates sleep, and you will say, " I did not know such poverty and misery existed in La Ville Lumiere." In London one sees the derelicts sleeping in the parks and on the Thames Embankment, but not so in Paris. The police keep the seamy side out of sight. Come with me to the Paris of Rabelais' time, the old Paris, which was once the home and the playground of the aristocracy. In the Rue Quincampaix there stands the Hotel of the Upper Loire, a seignorial mansion, once the home of Gabrielle D'Estree. It is now a common lodging house for market porters and others_ It has a fine portal. The hall is dark, but we mount the old staircase adorned with quaint wood carvings. You can see that it was once a grand entrance for lords and ladies. Now it leads to a large room filled with a score or more of beds on which rest the boarders. It is called the "Senate," for the occupants are of a superior class of poor, for there are gradations in poverty. The snores of the sleepers are loud and the air of the room is close and fetid.
Coming out we pass many unfortunates in the streets—apaches, blacklegs and cocotes of the lower class—but I was not molested because I was accompanied by a doctor well known to them. We enter a house in the Rue Courtalon, the lowest kind of lodging house. The hall is dark and the stench is terrific, compounded of the exhalations of hundreds of unwashed human beings. They supply food for these people. Four sous buys a bowl of soup or a glass of red wine. An immense room is full of sleepers, who lie on the bare floor. Down in the cellar are hundreds more lying like rows of corpses, so that one would think they were dead, were it not for the snores. And such a stench! We are glad to get out into the fresh air.
There are dozens of such places in Paris, but a visit to one or two is more than satisfying.
Many tourists now visit the catacombs, but fifty years ago such visits were uncommon. The catacombs were the underground quarries from which much of the stone used to build Paris was obtained. Now they are used for a different purpose. They contain hundreds of thousands of human bones. Skulls, arm bones, leg bones and vertebrae imbedded in mortar and stuck on the walls. The entrance is in the Rue D'Enfer—appropriate name. The bones of those shot down during the Commune in 1871 were much in evidence. Skulls split open by the sword, or perforated by round holes where the fatal bullet had cut life short. On entering every one is given a candle, the number of candles being counted and registered to make sure that the number of people who go in corresponds with those who come out, for it is easy to get lost, because there are miles of passages. The air is damp and the place is gloomy to the last degree. People have gone astray in this horrible place, some have never been found and others have emerged insane.
It is not generally known that there is a Roman Amphitheatre in Paris (Rue de Navarre), but one exists in the district of the Jardin des Plantes. It is not very large, but fairly well preserved_ In it are tiers of seats as in the Colosseum in Rome. There are cages for the lions and tigers. I do not know if gladiators fought here or not, but they probably did, for it was a popular Roman sport.
Stalwart Gauls and sturdy Alemani fought to the death for the amusement of the people. As young girls and women still delight in the bloody bull fights in Spain, so the Roman women probably enjoyed the gladiatorial combats in old Gaul.
Late in the summer of 1876 1 went to London and after spending some time looking around I joined the London Hospital in the Mile End Road as a special student. It was not a very savory neighborhood in which to live, but the clinical advantages of the hospital were very great. Eighteen thousand accident cases alone being treated there every year. I became dresser to the celebrated Jonathan Hutchinson and foliowed the clinics of Hughlings Jackson, Sutton, Sir Andrew Clark, Warren Tay and others. I frequently acted as house surgeon in the absence of the incumbents of the office, but could not be regularly appointed as I was not a full-time student. Treves (afterwards Sir Frederick) was Surgical Registrar. The following year I went up to Edinburgh and passed the examinations of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, which I found very easy after the training I had had at London. In the meantime I had joined the Moorfields Eye Hospital as clinical assistant to Mr. Soelberg Wells and the Central London Throat and Ear Hospital in the same capacity for Mr. Liewellan Thomas.
In the fall of 1877 1 was surprised by an offer from Dr. Hughlings Jackson to act as a private travelling physician to a rich invalid. I accepted, as I was getting hospitalized. My patient was a mild epileptic and my chief duty was to keep him on the move. We walked over a great part of England from Margate to Cornwall, up through the Midland Counties, through North Wales and then over to Ireland, where we covered the east, south.. and northern counties. In all we walked about 2,200 miles in the ten months. We averaged twelve miles a day, some clays doing twenty-five and others five or six, depending on the weather and the state of his health. It was a wonderful experience, but space does not permit me to relate our journeyings in detail. I occupied my mind with archeology and architecture, there being abundant opportunity to study these sciences. I learned to love England and have for that land a place in my heart next to my own dear country. I returned to London and worked at MoorfieIds, chiefly with Sir William Bowman, who treated me like a son both in his home and at. the hospital. During the summer of 1878 I returned home for a visit and took advantage of the opportunity to pass the examination for a license to practise in the Province of Ontario.
During the two months I was at home I took almost daily lessons in German from Pastor Von Pirch to prepare myself for a further course of study in Germany.