Regina Maria Roche. London Tales; Or, Reflective Portraits. 2 vols. London: John Booth, 1814. 1: 1-7.
THE MENTAL PHYSICIAN.
I perfectly agree with the remark of a
sensible writer, that the mind wants a physician as much as the body, said
Sedly. Nay, more, I think, (said Barnet); but, my friend, if such physicians
existed, small I fear would be their practice, and few their patients; for, as he wisely
remarks in his Essay, They will not only deny their disease, but will swear they
have no symptoms of it. How then is a remedy to be applied, or a recovery
effected? Perhaps, (resumed Sedley,) by writing down their complaint,
with the different symptoms it produces, as the author of that article has done, this I
think is the only way. Pacolet, you recollect, in the Tatler, performed a cure in
that manner on a common swearer; he wrote down all the swearer said one morning, as he was
dressing, and laid it before him on the toilet; when he came to pick his teeth, he read
it, knew himself, was ashamed, and never swore afterwards: many cures might be
effected in the same way. To write down all an ill-natured person said in one of his
fits of passion, to lay before him all the abuse he uttered, to number to him all the
blows he gave, concluding the list, with this calm, but good advice, from that little
valuable book, The Economy of Human Life, Do nothing in thy passion; why
wilt thou put to sea in the violence of a storm? consider how few things are worthy of
anger, and thou wilt wonder that any but fools should be wroth. If it does not
work a cure, Barnet, it may make him ashamed; and when repentance cometh, much is to be
expected. To the intemperate ought to be said, when writhing under disease or
remorse:--The pleasures of the temperate are moderate, and therefore they endure;
their repose is short, but sound, and undisturbed. Let not thy pleasures be
expensive, lest the pains and the expense at which you purchase them, exceed whatever
transports you may feel in their enjoyment. Tell the miserly, that--To
be satisfied with little, is the greatest wisdom; and that he who increaseth his riches,
increaseth his cares; but that a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and a guard against
trouble; or, in the words of a song that once fell in my way, (they seem quite
Why lose we life in anxious cares,
To lay up hoards for future years?
Can these (when tortured by disease)
Cure our sick heart, or purchase ease?
Can these prolong one gasp of breath,
Or calm the troubled hour of Death?
If many, Barnet, would think for a moment upon the truth conveyed in these six lines, and in many lines, both in prose and verse, that are laid before them, we would be less annoyed by those hoarding animals, called misers: the strangest one that was ever heard of, and where the desire for self-preservation did not prevail over the ruling passion, was that of the banker who died at Paris in 1790, worth £125,000; a few days before his death, no importunities could prevail upon him to buy a few pounds of meat to make a little soup for himself. It is true, (said he,) I would like the soup, but I cannot eat the meat. But there are vices, or passions, Barnet, incident to human nature, of a far more serious nature than those I have mentioned; viz. Revenge, or Inhumanity. In which class will you rank this? The Ammiyan Princes were by the tyrant Abdolah taken and laid close together, and covered with boards and carpets, upon which Abdolah feasted his officers, In order (said he) that we may be exhilirated with the dying groans of the Ammiyans. Or this? The Emperor Nero, having heard of the burning of Troy, caused Rome to be set on fire for his amusement; while he placed himself on the top of a high tower, and played on his lyre the destruction of Troy: in the mean time, nothing was heard below, but the lamentations of mothers, the cries of the dying, and the falling of buildings and palaces. I would call (replied Barnet) the first of these, barbarous revenge; the second of course, wanton inhumanity. My dear Sedly, when human nature is so far depraved, as in either of these instances, it is beyond the power of physicians, mental or bodily, to effect a cure; patients so far gone, ought to be sent to a mad-house, chained down, and treated as the most desperate of maniacs. But what would you say to those self-masters, jealous people? To cure jealousy, would be no easy task, (answered Sedly,) nor can we always trace it to its first cause, for this plain reason, that very often it has no cause at all; if it has, it is so very trifling, that the patient himself would wonder, were he so far recovered as to be sensible of his jaundiced eye, or to trace his complaint to its origin; what truth there is in these four lines of Collins:
Thy numbers, Jealousy, to nought were fixd,
Sad proof of thy distressful state;
Of differing themes the veering song was mixd,
And now it courted Love, now raving calld on Hate.
Talking of reformation, (said Barnet,) this was not a bad one, I dont recollect where I read it. As Polemo was returning one morning from the revels of the night, clad in a loose robe, and intoxicated with wine; he passed by the School of Xenocrates, and saw him surrounded with his disciples; unable to resist so good an opportunity of indulging his sportive humour, he rushed without ceremony into the school. Xenocrates, with great presence of mind, turned his discourse to that of Temperance and Modesty, with such energy, that Polemo, instead of turning the philosophers into ridicule as he intended, became sensible of the ridiculous figure he himself made in so respectable a society. From the greatest libertine, he became one of the greatest philosophers, and succeeded Xenocrates as master of the school.