« PreviousContinue »
panied him in his walks. Allowing for the difference of more than forty years in our ages, our tastes were a good deal similar, so that my attentions were not paid to him merely as a matter of duty. My father, as I have already mentioned, was a man of great natural talent, and had a very cultivated mind; and the fact of my being much in his society made me feel as if I was an older person than I really was, and in part explains how it happens that, when I went forth into the world afterwards, my sympathies were much more with those who were beyond myself in years than with those of my own age. Other circumstances, however, contributed to produce the same result. I have already referred to Robert Wray as one of my early acquaintance. He was the son of a gentleman of independent fortune at Salisbury, about five years my senior, and of a very thoughtful and reflecting turn of mind. There was a close intimacy between us, which terminated only with his death. Thus, being thrown a good deal on my own resources, I was constrained to seek 'amusement for my leisure hours, not in the usual pursuit of boys, but in my father's library, picking up many scraps of knowledge, which I have found to be far from useless since. To those who may take the trouble of looking at these manuscripts hereafter, all this may appear very trifling and egotistical; but the truth is, that I feel an interest in looking back at these circumstances in my early life which had an influence on my tastes and habits afterwards; and it may be that something of the same kind of interest will be felt by my wife and children when I am taken from them.
As long as I can remember anything, my father always endeavoured to impress on our minds that we should have to obtain our livelihood by our own exertions; that he would do his utmost to give us a good education, to accustom us to industrious habits, and to put us in the way of providing for ourselves, but that he could do nothing more. We supposed that he left us to choose our professions for ourselves, but the fact was, as I now believe, that, without our being aware of it, he himself directed our inclinations. My elder brother became a lawyer, and has since obtained the highest place in his profession as a conveyancing barrister, distinguished alike for his legal knowledge, his integrity, and his accuracy. My next brother, three years older than myself, as I have already mentioned, was first engaged in the woollen cloth manufactory at Salisbury. This, however, soon became a failing business, the Salisbury manufacturer, after the introduction of steam, being unable to compete with those of the coal districts. Some years afterwards, however, he succeeded on the death of one of my maternal uncles to a very lucrative business, which had been for some generations in my mother's family, and by which my grandfather had been enabled to accumulate a considerable fortune, became the proprietor of a provincial newspaper, and a banker. He married a niece of Mr. Hussey, who represented Salisbury in Parliament, with a good fortune; and was for many years a most prosperous person, living in the best society of that part of the country. In an evil hour he was persuaded to aspire to a seat in the House of Commons. He was elected for Salisbury by a large majority; was re-elected after two pretty hard contests; and kept his seat until, after the sudden death of a managing clerk in whom he had placed a too unlimited confidence, he was led to accept the Chiltern Hundreds.
As to myself, it was determined that I should embark in some part of the medical profession. Dr. Denmar had married one of my father's sisters. Dr. Baillie and Sir Richard Croft had married my first cousins. The great reputation which they had respectively acquired perhaps led my father to give my mind this direction, and disposed me to be easily guided according to his wishes. However that may have been, in the autumn of 1801 I was sent to London, and there entered on those pursuits which have been the chief object of my life.
Others have often said to me that they sup- . posed that I must have had, from the first, a particular taste or liking for my profession. But it was no such thing; nor does my experience lead me to have any faith in those special callings to certain ways of life which some
young men are supposed to have. For the most part, these are mere fancies, which are liable to give way to other fancies with as little reason as they themselves first began to exist. Such persons take the ignotum pro magnifico; and when they find that the magnificum is not equal to their expectations, they as readily fly to something else. The persons who succeed best in professions are those who, having (perhaps from some accidental circumstance) been led to embark in them, persevere in their course as a matter of duty, or because they have nothing better to do. They often feel their new pursuit to be unattractive enough in the beginning ; but as they go on, and acquire knowledge, and find that they obtain some degree of credit, the case is altered ; and from that time, they become every day more interested in what they are about. There is no profession to which these observations are more applicable than they are to the medical. The early studies are, in some respects, disagreeable to all, and to many repulsive. But in the practical exercise of its duties in the hospital, there is much that is of the