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under Mr. (afterwards Sir Everard) Home, at St. George's Hospital.
At this time Mr. Home was the leading surgeon at the west end of London. He was looked up to with something like veneration by all the hospital pupils. He was punctual in his attendance, performed his duties with great ability, and was far above all his colleagues, both in his diagnosis of disease and as an operating surgeon. As a practical surgeon, I do not think that Mr. Thomas Keate, the senior surgeon, was at all bis inferior; indeed, the latter had rather an advantage over him in the medical treatment of his patients. But Mr. Keate occupied what at that time was a very high station as surgeon-general to the army. In the time of war this was a place of great responsibility, with the disadvantage, for so it is, of a very extensive patronage. Partly in consequence of his time being thus very much occupied, and partly from being naturally of unpunctual habits, he was negligent of his hospital duties, and he was not estimated as, with his talents and knowledge, he would have been otherwise.
I had now left my old lodgings, where I lived with my brother Peter, in Carey Street, and resided in the neighbourhood of the hospital, in order that I might be better able to attend to my hospital studies. At this period I made one valuable addition to my professional acquaintance, Nicolson, who is still living, though in dilapidated health, at Calcutta. He was some years older than myself, was a protégé of Mr. Home, had a house opposite his in Sackville Street, and assisted him in his private practice. He was a man of considerable talents, and an excellent practical surgeon, but with no taste for the science of his profession. Three years afterwards he went to India in the service of the East India Company, where, from the high character which he brought with him, he had at once an office given him which enabled him to reside at the seat of government. He soon obtained a very large and lucrative private practice in Calcutta, besides acquiring a great degree of popularity, to which his kind disposition and open and manly character justly entitled him.
The commencement of my studies at the hospital was that of a completely new era in my life. Hitherto it is true that I had worked hard enough. With the exception of Lawrence, I doubt whether any one of my acquaintance had been equally diligent. But it was rather as a matter of duty, or I rather ought to say of necessity, than because I felt any very great interest in what I was doing; and most willingly, if I could have afforded it, would I have turned my back on anatomy and returned to literary pursuits. A great change took place as soon as I became familiar with the business of the hospital.
To those who really desire to learn, the wards of a hospital are soon found to be replete with interest. At first all is confusion. The nice distinction of symptoms on which the diagnosis of disease depends, why the pulse in one case indicates immediate danger, and in another none at all, why one patient recovers and another dies, why the same kind of treatment is successful in one instance and fails in another,—these, and a multitude of other matters, are quite inexplicable to the young student. Everything is seen
as it were through a mist. After no long time, however, the mist begins to clear away, and whoever has advanced thus far finds no difficulty afterwards. Every case is an interesting subject of enquiry. A great game is being played, in which the stake is often neither more nor less than the life or death of a fellow-creature, and in which those among the students who devote themselves to their business perform a humble yet not unimportant part without any painful feeling of responsibility. Not many months elapsed before I became sensible of the good effect of these new studies, and of the wisdom of Dr. Baillie's advice that I should make myself a tolerably complete anatomist before I commenced my attendance at the hospital; as I found that I was able to comprehend many things that were passing under my observation which I could never have properly comprehended otherwise, and in which those who were less prepared in this respect were little able to understand.
During the summer of 1803 I never failed to pass the early part of the day in the wards of the hospital. In the afternoon I usually dined by myself at my lodgings in Knightsbridge, and in the evening read some Latin classics, and other books which formed my scanty library, or a novel from a small circulating library at Brompton, or walked in Kensington Gardens. As the season advanced, most of my friends left London. A few, however, remained, whom I met occasionally; among them was Dibdin, since known by his works on Bibliography, who at that time resided at Kensington, not very far from my lodgings at Knightsbridge, and with whom I occasionally wandered to hear the nightingales in the lane beyond Holland House. In September I returned to my father's house at Winterslow, intending to remain there only for a short time, and to be in London again when the lectures in Windmill Street were resumed on the 1st of October. I had not, however, been long in the country before I had an attack of fever, which confined me for some time to my bed. On my recovery, my father took me to the seaside at Mudeford, in Hampshire, from whence I returned to London at the end of Oc