2744. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 March 1816

2744. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 March 1816⁠* 

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The Timour Khan of Mohammed 2 (at Constantinople) consists of 70 rooms, covered with 80 cupolas, attended by 200 servants, a general physician & a surgeon. All passengers (travellers I suppose) who fall sick are received in the hospital & attended to. Twice a day they receive excellent dishes, so that pheasants, partridges & other precious birds are by no means spared. If such provisions are not ready at the hospital, it is provided by the charters of foundation that such provisions are to be furnished by the Imarets (dining establishments) of S Soleman, of Prince Mahommed his son, of Sultan Ahmed 1, of Khasseke Sultan (near the womens market,) of Wesa Sultan, of Eyoob Sultan, of Prince Djehaungeer (at Tophana) of Mohammed Sultan at Scutari of the Walides mosque at Scutari. There are musicians & players paid to divert the madmen, & to cure by that means their madness. There is also a separate hospital for Infidels.

Eulia Effendis Travels. A Turk of the 17th century. They have never been printed & this is from a MSS translation in German-English. [1] 

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The hospital (Timauristaun) of Sultan Soliman is a medical establishment so excellent that the sick are commonly cured here within three days (I dare say Dr Southey this is more then you can say at the Middlesex) [2] 

Do

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In the hospital of Sultan Ahmed are cured for the most part the mad who are carried here on account of the good air & the waters are famed for their good will & good nature: the reason of it is their being put under the immediate inspection of the Kislaragassi who comes himself to inquire into the state of the sick (I think the Kisler aga is the chief of the Eunuchs, [3]  & a very formidable personage)

Do.

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At Cayenne. On a eté long-tems que les esclaves me pouvoient pas se multiplier, parce qu’il n’étoit pas possible de pouvoir sauver aucun Négrillon; ils mouroient presqu’aussi-tôt qu’ils venoient au monde. Aujourd’hui même ces pauvres enfans sont encore sujets à cette maladie, qu’on appelle si improprement, dans le pays, Catharre. Ce mal, que l’on peut nommer le fleau des enfans, est une convulson universelle, ou un véritable Tetanos. It attaque principalement ceux qui sont nouvellement nés; & les emporte, presque tous, en trois ou quatre jours. Il n’épargne pas même les grandes personnes, à quelque age qu’elles soient. On n’a jamais vu, ou du moins très rarement, qu’aucun Blanc, pour parler le langage du pays, aye été saisi de pareille maladie. On a constamment observé que les enfans sont plus sujets à ce cruel mal, le trois ou le quatre, jusques même au neuviéme jour après leur naissance; de sorte que s’ils passent neuf jours entiers sans en avoir aucune atteinte, les femmes les croyent hors de danger, & les exposent hardiment à l’air. Il en est qui, en naissant, apportent cette maladie, & meurent aussi-tôt. On connoit ordinairement quand les enfans ont le Tethanos, qu’on nomme aussi tout court la Maladie, par la difficulté qu’ils ont à succer le lait, par la convulsion de la mâchoire: leur cri est tout-à-fait gêné, & diférent de celui des autres enfans. Enfin la mâchoire se serre de plus en plus; les extrémités deviennent roides; & des mouvemens convulsifs, qui sent l’avant-coureur de la mort, venant coup sur coup, enlevent en peu de tems le malade.

A l’égard det adultes, ils résistent à la vérité plus long-tems que le enfans; mais ils ont toujours le malheur d’éprouver le méme sort. La maladie le manifeste par une espéce de Torticolis; ou une douleur qu’on sent au col, & que les malades comparent à une corde qui les preffe: la mâchoire se serre ensuite, & empêche d’avaler la nourriture; les bras & les jambes deviennent si roides, qu’en prenant la malade par un pied, ou par la tête, on le leve comme une piéce de bois. La roideur des membres n’est pas si continuellement soutenue, qu il n’arrive plusieurs fois le jour quelques contractions involuntaires. Ces accidens fatiguent si fort les malades, qu’ils jettent des hauts cris; ils demandent qu’on les soutienne; & on est même obligé de leur tenir la tête un peu élevée, pour leur faciliter la respiration, qui est fort gênée. Ce qu’il y a de plus particulier dans cette maladie, c’est une faim insatiable; dont les malades sont quelquefois si fort pressés, qu’ils mangeroient à tout moment, si on vouloit les satisfaire, & s’ils avoient d’ailleurs la liberté d’avaler. La fiévre ne manque jamais de survenir; des sueurs copieuses se répandent dans toute l’habitude du corps; & le mal augmentant de plus en plus, le malade meurt avec des mouvemens convulsifs horribles.

La précaution la plus sure pour arrêter le progrès d’un si cruel mal, est d’arroser les malades plufieurs fois par jour avec de l’eau la plus fraiche qu’on puisse trouver, & sur tout dès le moment que l’on s’apperçoit que les enfans ne peuvent téter qu’avec peine, & que leur mâchoire commence a se serrer. If faut réiterer ces aspersions, jusques à ce que ces fâcheux accidens foient dissipés, & que les parties du corps ayent repris leur premiere souplesse. Il est necessaire de soutenir les forces du malade; sur tout des grandes personnes, par des bons bouillons, qu’il faut donner peu & souvent, dans l’intervale desquels on doit leur faire prendre quelques eueillerées de vin. Il ne faut pas manquer non plus de mettre en usage le Mercure doux, ou l’Etioph minéral, en le mêlant avec des purgatifs, comme la Rhubarbe, le Diagrede, le Jalap. L’Extrait d’Aloës m’a aussi réussi dans cette rencontre. Et supposé que le malade n’eut pas assez de liberté d’avaler des Bolus, en ce cas, on doit y sustituer une infusion de Sené, avec la Manne & les autres purgatifs ordinaires. Les esclaves que j’ai eu le bonheur de guérir dans la Colonie, sont autant de témoins du succès & de la bonté de cette méthode. Les Négresses, aujourd’hui, dès qu’elles s’apperçoivent que leurs enfans sont menacés de la Maladie, elles les baignent, sans autre façon, & les arrosent avec des grands Couyes (gourds) pleins d’eau.

Nouvelle Relacion de la France Equinoxiale par Pierre Barrere Docteur & Professor en Medicine &c. 1743. [4] 

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Hospital of Sultan Bayazet at Adrianople, with a medical academy.

There are 8 rooms here, which ‘are ever full of sick people, poor and rich. In some of these rooms fire is lighted at winter time according to the desire of the sick, & they are fondled with silk cushions, good beds, &c. for the spring when madness is particularly raging. the madmen sick of mystic love (religious madmen) are seen to lie here chained like lions in their dens, looking to the basin (the fountain I suppose), & speaking in the cant of Kalenders. Others dispersing in the garden amongst the flower beds, yell & shout to the song of the nightingale, without measure or art. In the season of the flowers the sick are often cured only by the sight & smell of them; & some lose their wits by the sweet scent of them (perhaps this is German for fainting). The greater number of the madmen enchained here are lovesick, & their sight may cure those who are in danger to become mad by the number of pretty faces to be seen here. Some of the mad are cured by music; and therefore Sultan Bayazet, the founder, established a living for some musicians, who come thrice a week, & play in the winter & summer rooms to the sick & mad. The mad begin then to jump like apes at the tunes, Rast, Neva, Sigah, Bhehargeh, but above all to the tunes Zevgoole & Boslik, which being accompanied by the great kettledrum gives particular pleasure to the mad. Briefly there is no hospital & no madhouse in the whole world like that of Adrianople. The sick & mad receive three times in four & twenty hours, not only common food, but birds & all kinds of aviary dainties from the kitchen founded for that purpose. Twice in the week the apothecary’s room is opened, & medicines are distributed to all those who ask for them; preparations of cardamom, caryophils, & all kind of aromatic spices. On the door of the room a curse is written against those who without being sick should ask for such medicines, that they should fall sick immediately.’ Eulia Effendi [5] 

(This was the extract which I could not find for my last letter) [6] 

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Dear Harry

Here is this paper of work for you, – & I shall always have a sheet in preparation for you & Gooch. – Did I mention to you in reference to the Turkish system of music & odours that Sebastian of Portugal in a fever was laid by his Physicians on a bed of roses? I have the fact somewhere with its authority but the mere fact is all you require for a viva voce use of it. [7] 

Herbert has been very unwell for a fortnight with an endemic cough & low fever today he appears better, – but his illness has been sufficient to make me very uncomfortable & I am yet far from being at ease, as the recovery is but beginning. How are you going on in Q Anne Street & how is Mrs Gonne? Of the Streathamites [8]  I heard from Bedford. My Poem is finished [9]  Laus Deo [10]  I have only to correct & transcribe the last sheet & then forthwith to compleat the Carmen Nuptiale – which I shall call by that name adding after it The Lay of the Laureate – the character of the Poem making the word Lay strictly appropriate. [11]  Love to Louisa God bless you

RS.

Keswick 23 March 1816


Notes

* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 26 MR 26/ 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The seventeenth-century travel narrative of the Turk ‘Evlia Effendi’ (Evliya Çelebi (1611–1682) in the Ottoman Empire. Southey had been asked by Murray to review the manuscript to advise on whether it should be published in England. However, a translation did not appear until Narrative of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa, in the Seventeenth Century (1834). The translator was probably Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall (1774–1856), who had published a German version in 1814. BACK

[2] Henry Herbert Southey was Physician to the Middlesex Hospital and lectured there. Southey’s extracts were intended to provide him with illustrations for his lectures. BACK

[3] The Kizler Agha was the Head of the eunuchs who guarded the Imperial Harem in Constantinople. The post’s proximity to the Emperor usually meant its holder wielded great authority. In addition, the Kizler Agha supervised many charitable foundations 1586–1834, hence his role in the administration of this hospital. BACK

[4] Pierre Barrère (c. 1690–1755), Nouvelle Relation de la France Équinoxiale (Paris, 1743), pp. 70–74, no. 116 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. ‘For a long time, we were of the opinion that slaves could not multiply, especially since, being unable to save a single Negro, they were dying almost as soon as they were born. Today, these poor children are still subject to the disease that is so improperly referred to in this country as Catharre. This evil, that we may call the scourge of children, is a universal convulsion or the fully-fledged Tetanus. It primarily affects those who are newly born, & it takes the lives of most of them in three or four days. Not even the adults, no matter their age, are spared from this disease. We have never, or at least very rarely, seen whites, as the people of this country call them, that were seized by such a disease. We have consistently observed that children are more prone to this cruel evil, but even so, some of them do not show any signs of the disease until the third or the fourth or even up to the ninth day after birth, which is why the women, believing them to be out of danger, boldly expose them to the elements. There are those who, at birth, bear this disease and die instantly. We usually know when children have Tetanus, also referred to as the Disease, by the difficulty they have in suckling their mother’s milk and the convulsions of their jaw: their cry is usually stunted and different from that of other children. Finally, the jaw tightens even more, the extremities become stiff & the convulsions, the harbingers of death, now coming in quick succession, are quick to take the patient’s life. With regard to the adults, they resist much longer than the children, but they still have the misfortune of experiencing the same fate. The disease manifests itself as a kind of torticollis, or a pain that is felt at the neck, one that the patients compared to a rope that presses: their jaw then tightens, and it prevents them from swallowing food, the arms & the legs become so stiff that taking the patient by a foot or by the head is like lifting a plank of wood. The stiffness of the limbs is not continually sustained, as they’ll often experience involuntary contractions several times a day. These incidents are so tiresome that the sick cry out asking us to prop them up, & we even have to hold their head a little higher to facilitate breathing, which is very uncomfortable. What is especially particular in this disease is an insatiable hunger that sometimes leaves patients so hard-pressed that they would eat all the time if their wishes were met, and if they had also freedom to swallow. The fever never fails to occur, profuse sweating spreads all throughout the body, and the pain increases more and more until the disease ends in horrible convulsions. The safest precaution to stop the progress of such a cruel pain is to sluice the sick several times a day with the coolest water we can find, and especially as soon as we notice that the children are suckling with difficulty, or when their jaw starts to tighten. If necessary, we repeat the spraying of water until these unfortunate symptoms dissipate, and until the body parts have returned to their initial flexibility. It is necessary to help maintain the patient’s strength, especially the adults, by giving them good broth, often and in little doses, as well as by making them drink spoonfuls of wine in the meantime. It is important to also use sweet Mercury or Ethiopian minerals by mixing it with purgatives like rhubarb, powdered scammony and Jalap. Aloe extracts also worked for me in these kinds of situations. And assuming that the patient is not able to swallow a bolus, then we must substitute it with an infusion of Senna, Manna & other ordinary purgatives. The slaves that I had the pleasure of healing in the Colony all testify to the success & the goodness of this method. Today, as soon as black women notice that their children are at risk of the disease, they do nothing else but bathe and sprinkle them with great Couyes (gourds) full of water.' BACK

[5] Another extract from the manuscript of ‘Evlia Effendi’; see note 1, above. BACK

[6] Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 February 1816, Letter 2723. BACK

[7] Sebastian I (1554–1578; King of Portugal 1557–1578). Southey recorded this fact about him in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 435, but did not give his source. BACK

[8] Herbert Hill and family, who lived at Streatham, near London. BACK

[9] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[10] ‘Praise be to God’. BACK

[11] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816). BACK

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