January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


TC TO “THERAPEUTES” ; 25 February 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590225-TC-THE-01; CL 35: 44-45


Chelsea 25th Feby 1859.

Dear Sir—I have received your book1 which you were kind enough to send me, and I beg to return you thanks for the same. It is a book (unlike many that come to me here) of a serious nature, the fruit of long study, meditation, inquiry, and evidently of perfect conviction on your part.

I believe, and have long believed, the essential idea it sets forth to be not only true, but of the very highest importance to mankind, namely, that the Physican must first of all be a priest (that is to say, a man of pious nobleness, devoted to the service of the Highest, and prepared to endure and endeavour for that same, taking no counsel of flesh, and blood, as the theory of Priests is),—first of all, a real priest, and than2 that the whole world should take supreme counsel of him, as it does of its real or imaginary Priests or Pontiffs this long while back, and follow said counsel as the actual will of God,—which it would be were the Physician what I say.

It is curious to remark that Heilig in our old Teutonic speech is both Holy and also Healthy; that the words Holy and Healthy, as our antique fathers understood them, are one and the same. A thousand times has that etymology risen sorrowfully upon me, in looking at the present distracted position of affairs, which is horrible to think of, if we look earnestly into it, and which cannot well be spoken of at all. We, sure enough, have completely contrived to divorce holiness (as we call it) from health, and have been reaping the fruits very plentifully during these fifteen hundred years.

The notion of bringing our present distracted anomaly of a Physician into union with our ditto ditto of a Priest, and making them identical, is, of course, extremely chimerical; nor can one easily say what ought to be the first step towards bringing each of them back from his anomalous imaginary condition and nearer to veracity, and the possibility of coalescing. But I am very glad to see the idea started, in any form, under any vesture, and heartily wish you success in bringing it home to men's minds.

I remain, yours truly,


To Therapeutes,
Messrs. Sutherland and Knox,
Booksellers, Edinburgh.