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The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Translated by Fowler, H W and F G. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1905.
A young man is renounced and cast off by his father (we are not told why); he goes abroad to study the natural sciences/medicine; on his return home, he finds his father raving mad, visits, and cures him; inconsequence, he is taken in again and they are reconciled. The mother-in-law, being seized with madness, requests the young natural scientist/doctor who refuses to prescribe anything for her. He again is cast off and banished: he then appeals to the Laws of Reparation. This according to the commentators of Lucian is the subject of this piece, which has little wit or humor. Lucian was originally a lawyer, though, for reasons hinted in his works, he declined to take up the profession. He might, however, have been asked by the young man to prepare a defense. After all, it is merely a dry pleading before the Court of Judicature.
- Based on Francklin
A disinherited son adopts the medical profession. His father going mad, and being given up by the other physicians, he treats him successfully, and is then reinstated in his rights. Subsequently his step-mother also goes mad; he is bidden to cure her, and, declaring his inability to do so, is once more disinherited.
There is neither novelty nor strangeness, gentlemen of the jury, in my father’s present proceedings. It is not the first time his passions have taken this direction; it has become an instinctive habit with him to pay a visit to this familiar court. Still, my unfortunate position has this much of novelty about it: the charge I have to meet is not personal, but professional; I am to be punished for the inability of Medicine to do my father’s bidding. A curious demand, surely, that healing should be done to order, and depend not on the limits of one’s art, but on the wishes of one’s father. For my part, I should be only too glad to find drugs in the pharmacopoeia which could relieve not only disordered wits, but disordered tempers; then I might be serviceable to my father. As it is, he is completely cured of madness, but is worse-tempered than ever. The bitterest part of it is, he is sane enough in all other relations, and mad only where his healer is concerned. You see what my medical fee amounts to; I am again disinherited, cut off from my family once more, as though the sole purpose of my brief reinstatement had been the accentuation of my disgrace by repetition.
When a thing is within the limits of possibility, I require no bidding; I came before I was summoned, to see what I could do in this case. But when there is absolutely no hope, I will not meddle. With this particular patient, such caution is especially incumbent upon me; how my father would treat me, if I tried and failed, I can judge by his disinheriting me when I refused to try. Gentlemen, I am sorry for my stepmother’s illness — for she was an excellent woman; I am sorry for my father’s distress thereat; I am most sorry of all that I should seem rebellious, and be unable to give the required service; but the disease is incurable, and my art is not omnipotent. I do not see the justice of disinheriting one who, when he cannot do a thing, refuses to undertake it.
The present case throws a clear light upon the reasons for my first disinheriting. The allegations of those days I consider to have been disposed of by my subsequent life; and the present charges I shall do my best to clear away with a short account of my proceedings. Wilful and disobedient son that I am, a disgrace to my father, unworthy of my family, I thought proper to say very little indeed in answer to his long and vehement denunciations. Banished from my home, I reflected that I should find my most convincing plea, my best acquittal, in the life I then led, in practically illustrating the difference between my father’s picture and the reality, in devotion to the worthiest pursuits and association with the most reputable company. But I had also a presentiment of what actually happened; it occurred to me even then that a perfectly sane father does not rage causelessly at his son, nor trump up false accusations against him. Persons were not wanting who detected incipient madness; it was the warning and precursor of a stroke which would fall before long — this unreasoning dislike, this harsh conduct, this fluent abuse, this malignant prosecution, all this violence, passion, and general ill temper. Yes, gentlemen, I saw that the time might come when Medicine would serve me well.
I went abroad, attended lectures by the most famous foreign physicians, and by hard work and perseverance mastered my craft. Upon my return, I found that my father’s madness had developed, and that he had been given up by the local doctors, who are not distinguished for insight, and are much to seek in accurate diagnosis. I did no more than a son’s duty when I forgot and forgave the disinheritance, and visited him without waiting to be called in; I had in fact nothing to complain of that was properly his act; his errors were not his, but, as I have implied, those of his illness. I came unsummoned, then. But I did not treat him at once; that is not our custom, nor what our art enjoins upon us. What we are taught to do is first of all to ascertain whether the disease is curable or incurable — has it passed beyond our control? After that, if it is susceptible of treatment, we treat it, and do our very best to relieve the sufferer. But if we realize that the complaint has got the entire mastery, we have nothing to do with it at all. That is the tradition that has come down to us from the fathers of our art, who direct us not to attempt hopeless cases. Well, I found that there was yet hope for my father; the complaint had not gone too far; I watched him for a long time; formed my conclusions with scrupulous care; then, I commenced operations and exhibited my drugs without hesitation — though many of his friends were suspicious of my prescription, impugned the treatment, and took notes to be used against me.
My step-mother was present, distressed and doubtful — the result not of any dislike to me, but of pure anxiety, based on her full knowledge of his sad condition; no one but her, who had lived with and nursed him, knew the worst. However, I never faltered; the symptoms would not lie to me, nor my art fail me; when the right moment came, I applied the treatment, in spite of the timidity of some of my friends, who were afraid of the scandal that might result from a failure; it would be said that the medicine was my vengeful retort to the disinheritance. To make a long story short, it was at once apparent that he had taken no harm; he was in his senses again, and aware of all that went on. The company were amazed; my step-mother thanked me, and every one could see that she was delighted both at my triumph and at her husband’s recovery. He himself — to give credit where it is due — did not take time to consider, nor to ask advice, but, as soon as he heard the story, undid what he had done, made me his son again, hailed me as his preserver and benefactor, confessed that I had now given my proofs, and withdrew his previous charges. All this was delightful to the better, who were many, among his friends, but distasteful to the persons who enjoy a quarrel more than a reconciliation. I observed at the time that all were not equally pleased; there were changes of colour, uneasy glances, signs of mortification, in one quarter at least, which told of envy and hatred. With us, who had recovered each other, all was naturally affection and rejoicing.
Quite a short time after, my step-mother’s disorder commenced — a very terrible and unaccountable one, gentlemen of the jury. I observed it from its very beginning; it was no slight superficial case, this; it was a long-established but hitherto latent mental disease, which now burst out and forced its way into notice. There are many signs by which we know that madness is incurable — among them a strange one which I noticed in this case. Ordinary society has a soothing, alleviating effect; the patient forgets to be mad; but if he sees a doctor, or even hears one mentioned, he at once displays acute irritation — an infallible sign that he is far gone, incurable in fact. I was distressed to notice this symptom; my step-mother was a worthy person who deserved a better fate, and I was all compassion for her.
But my father in his simplicity, knowing neither when nor how the trouble began, and quite unable to gauge its gravity, bade me cure her by the drugs that had cured him. His idea was that madness was to be nothing else but mad; the disease was the same, its effects the same, and it must admit of the same treatment. When I told him, as was perfectly true, that his wife was incurable, and confessed that the case was beyond me, he thought it an outrage, said I was refusing because I chose to, and treating the poor woman shamefully — in short, visited upon me the limitations of my art. Such ebullitions are common enough in distress; we all lose our tempers then with the people who tell us the truth. I must nevertheless defend myself and my profession, as well as I can, against his strictures.
I will begin with some remarks upon the law under which I am to be disinherited; my father will please to observe that it is not quite so much now as before a matter for his absolute discretion. You will find, sir, that the author of the law has not conferred the right of disherison upon any father against any son upon any pretext. It is true he has armed fathers with this weapon; but he has also protected sons against its illegitimate use. That is the meaning of his insisting that the procedure shall not be irresponsible and uncontrolled, but come under the legal cognizance of inspectors whose decision will be uninfluenced by passion or misrepresentation. He knew how often irritation is unreasonable, and what can be effected by a lying tale, a trusted slave, or a spiteful woman. He would not have the deed done without form of law; sons were not to be condemned unheard and out of hand; they are to have the ear of the court for so long by the clock, and there is to be adequate inquiry into the facts.
My father’s competence, then, being confined to preferring his complaints, and the decision whether they are reasonable or not resting with you, I shall be within my rights in requesting you to defer consideration of the grievance on which he bases the present suit, until you have determined whether a second disinheritance is admissible in the abstract. He has cast me off, has exercised his legal rights, enforced his parental powers to the full, and then restored me to my position as his son. Now it is iniquitous, I maintain, that fathers should have these unlimited penal powers, that disgrace should be multiplied, apprehension made perpetual, the law now chastize, now relent, now resume its severity, and justice be the shuttlecock of our fathers’ caprices. It is quite proper for the law to humour, encourage, give effect to, one punitive impulse on the part of him who has begotten us; but if, after shooting his bolt, insisting on his right, indulging his wrath, he discovers our merits and takes us back, then he should be held to his decision, and not allowed to oscillate, waver, do and undo any more. Originally, he had no means of knowing whether his offspring would turn out well or ill; that is why parents who have decided to bring up children before they knew their nature are permitted to reject such as are found unworthy of their family.
But when a man has taken his son back, not upon compulsion, but of his own motion and after inquiry, how can further chopping and changing be justified? What further occasion for the law? Its author might fairly say to you, sir: If your son was vicious and deserved to be disinherited, what were you about to recall him? Why have him home again? Why suspend the law’s operation? You were a free agent; you need not have done it. The laws are not your play-ground; you are not to put the courts in motion every time your mood varies; the laws are not to be suspended today and enforced tomorrow, with juries to look on at the proceedings, or rather to be the ministers of your whims, executioners or peace-makers according to your taste and fancy. The boy cost you one begetting, and one rearing; in return for which you may disinherit him, once, always provided you have reason to show for it. Disinheriting as a regular habit, a promiscuous pastime, is not included in the patria potestas.
Gentlemen of the jury, I entreat you in Heaven’s name not to permit him, after voluntarily reinstating me, reversing the previous decision, and renouncing his anger, to revive the old sentence and have recourse to the same paternal rights; the period of their validity is past and gone; his own act suffices to annul and exhaust their power. You know the general rule of the courts, that a party dissatisfied with the verdict of a ballot — provided jury is allowed an appeal to another court; but that is not so when the parties have agreed upon arbitrators, and, after such selection, put the matter in their hands. They had the choice, there, of not recognizing the court ab initio; if they nevertheless did so, they may fairly be expected to abide by its award. Similarly you, sir, had the choice of never taking back your son, if you thought him unworthy; having decided that he was worthy, and taken him back, you cannot be permitted to disinherit him anew; the evidence of his not deserving it is your own admission of his worth. It is only right that the reinstatement and reconciliation should be definitive, after such abundant investigation; there have been two trials, observe: the first, that in which you rejected me; the second, that in your own conscience, which reversed the decision of the other; the fact of reversal only adds force to the later result. Abide, then, by your second thoughts, and uphold your own verdict. You are to be my father; such was your determination, approved and ratified.
Suppose I were not your begotten, but only your adopted son, I hold that you could not then have disinherited me; for what it is originally open to us not to do, we have no right, having done, to undo. But where there is both the natural tie, and that of deliberate choice, how can a second rejection, a repeated deprivation of the one relationship, be justified? Or again, suppose I had been a slave, and you had seen reason to put me in irons, and afterwards, convinced of my innocence, made me a free man; could you, upon an angry impulse, have enslaved me again? Assuredly not; the law makes these acts binding and irrevocable. Upon this contention, that the voluntary annulment of a disinheritance precludes a repetition of the act, I could enlarge further, but will not labour the point.
You have next to consider the character of the man now to be disinherited. I lay no stress upon the fact that I was then nothing, and am now a physician; my art will not help me here. As little do I insist that I was then young, and am now middle-aged, with my years as a guarantee against misconduct; perhaps there is not much in that either. But, gentlemen, at the time of my previous expulsion, if I had never done my father any harm (as I should maintain), neither had I done him any good; whereas now I have recently been his preserver and benefactor; could there be worse ingratitude than so, and so soon, to requite me for saving him from that terrible fate? My care of him goes for nothing; it is lightly forgotten, and I am driven forth desolate — I, whose wrongs might have excused my rejoicing at his troubles, but who, so far from bearing malice, saved him and restored him to his senses.
For, gentlemen, it is no ordinary slight kindness that he is choosing this way of repaying. You all know (though he may not realize) what he was capable of doing, what he had to endure, what his state was, in fact, during those bad days. The doctors had given him up, his relations had cleared away and dared not come near him; but I undertook his case and restored him to the power of — accusing me and going to law. Let me help your imagination, sir. You were very nearly in the state in which your wife now is, when I gave you back your understanding. It is surely not right that my reward for that should be this — that your understanding should be used against me alone. That it is no trifling kindness I have done you is apparent from the very nature of your accusation. The ground of your hatred is that she whom I do not cure is in extremities, is terribly afflicted; then, seeing that I relieved you of just such an affliction, there is surely better reason for you to love and be grateful to me for your own release from such horrors. But you are unconscionable enough to make the first employment of your restored faculties an indictment of me; you smite your healer, the ancient hate revives, and we have you reciting the same old law again. My art’s handsome fee, the worthy payment for my drugs, is — your present manifestation of vigour!
But you, gentlemen of the jury, will you allow him to punish his benefactor, drive away his preserver, pay for his wits with hatred, and for his recovery with chastisement? I hope better things of your justice. However flagrantly I had now been misconducting myself, I had a large balance of gratitude to draw upon. With that consideration in his memory, he need not have been extreme to mark what is now done amiss; it might have inspired him with ready indulgence, the more if the antecedent service was great enough to throw anything that might follow into the shade. That fairly states my relation to him; I preserved him; he owes his life absolutely to me; his existence, his sanity, his understanding, are my gifts, given, moreover, when all others despaired and confessed that the case was beyond their skill.
The service that I did was the more meritorious, it seems to me, in that I was not at the time my father’s son, nor under any obligation to undertake the case; I was independent of him, a mere stranger; the natural bond had been snapped. Yet I was not indifferent; I came as a volunteer, uninvited, at my own instance. I brought help, I persevered, I effected the cure, I restored him, thereby securing myself at once a father and an acquittal; I conquered anger with kindness, disarmed law with affection, purchased readmission to my family with important service, proved my filial loyalty at that critical moment, was adopted (or adopted myself, rather) on the recommendation of my art, while my conduct in trying circumstances proved me a son by blood also. For I had anxiety and fatigue enough in being always on the spot, ministering to my patient, watching for my opportunities, now humouring the disease when it gathered strength, now availing myself of a remission to combat it. Of all a physician’s tasks the most hazardous is the care of patients like this, with the personal attendance it involves; for in their moments of exasperation they are apt to direct their fury upon any one they can come at. Yet I never shrank or hesitated; I was always there; I had a life-and-death struggle with the malady, and the final victory was with me and my drugs.
Now I can fancy a person who hears all this objecting hastily, ‘What a fuss about giving a man a dose of medicine!’ But the fact is, there are many preliminaries to be gone through; the ground has to be prepared; the body must first be made susceptible to treatment; the patient’s whole condition has to be studied; he must be purged, reduced, dieted, properly exercised, enabled to sleep, coaxed into tranquillity. Now other invalids will submit to all this; but mania robs its victims of self-control; they are restive and jib; their physicians are in danger, and treatment at a disadvantage. Constantly, when we are on the very point of success and full of hope, some slight hitch occurs, and a relapse takes place which undoes all in a moment, neutralizing our care and tripping up our art.
Now, after my going through all this, after my wrestle with this formidable disease and my triumph over so elusive an ailment, is it still your intention to support him in disinheriting me? Shall he interpret the laws as he will against his benefactor? Will you look on while he makes war upon nature? I obey nature, gentlemen of the jury, in saving my father from death, and myself from the loss of him, unjust as he had been. He on the contrary defers to law (he calls it law) in ruining and cutting off from his kin the son who has obliged him. He is a cruel father, I a loving son. I own the authority of nature: he spurns and flings it from him. How misplaced is this paternal hate! How worse misplaced this filial love! For I must reproach myself — my father will have it so. And the reproach? That where I should hate (for I am hated), I love, and where I should love little, I love much. Yet surely nature requires of parents that they love their children more than of children that they love their parents. But he deliberately disregards both the law, which secures children their family rights during good behaviour, and nature, which inspires parents with fervent love for their offspring. Having greater incentives to affection, you might suppose that he would confer the fruits of it upon me in larger measure, or at the least reciprocate and emulate my love. Alas, far from it! he returns hate for love, persecution for devotion, wrong for service, disinheritance for respect; the laws which guard, he converts into means of assailing, the rights of children. Ah, my father, how do you force law into your service in this battle against nature!
The facts, believe me, are not as you would have them. You are a bad exponent, sir, of good laws. In this matter of affection there is no war between law and nature; they hunt in couples, they work together for the remedying of wrongs. When you evil entreat your benefactor, you are wronging nature; now I ask, do you wrong the laws as well as nature? You do; it is their intention to be fair and just and give sons their rights; but you will not allow it; you hound them on again and again upon one child as though he were many; you keep them ever busy punishing, when their own desire is peace and goodwill between father and son. I need hardly add that, as against the innocent, they may be said to have no existence. But let me tell you, ingratitude also is an offence known to the law; an action will lie against a person who fails to recompense his benefactor. If he adds to such failure an attempt to punish, he has surely reached the uttermost limits of wrong in this sort. And now I think I have sufficiently established two points: first, my father has not the right, after once exerting his parental privilege and availing himself of the law, to disinherit me again; and secondly, it is on general grounds inadmissible to cast off and expel from his family one who has rendered service so invaluable.
Let us next proceed to the actual reasons given for the disinheritance; let us inquire into the nature of the charge. We must first go back for a moment to the intention of the legislator. We will grant you for the sake of argument, sir, that it is open to you to disinherit as often as you please; we will further concede you this right against your benefactor; but I presume that disinheritance is not to be the beginning and the ending in itself; you will not resort to it, that is, without sufficient cause. The legislator’s meaning is not that the father can disinherit, whatever his grievance may be, that nothing is required beyond the wish and a complaint; in that case, what is the court’s function? No, gentlemen, it is your business to inquire whether the parental anger rests upon good and sufficient grounds. That is the question which I am now to put before you; and I will take up the story from the moment when sanity was restored.
The first-fruits of this was the withdrawal of the disinheritance; I was preserver, benefactor, everything. So far my conduct is not open to exception, I take it. Well, and later on what fault has my father to find? What attention or filial duty did I omit? Did I stay out o’ nights, sir? Do you charge me with untimely drinkings and revellings? Was I extravagant? Did I get into some disreputable brawl? Did any such complaint reach you? None whatever. Yet these are just the offences for which the law contemplates disherison. Ah, but my step-mother fell ill. Indeed, and do you make that a charge against me? Do you prefer a suit for ill health? I understand you to say no.
What is the grievance, then?-That you refuse to treat her at my bidding, and for such disobedience to your father deserve to be disinherited.— Gentlemen, I will explain presently how the nature of this demand results in a seeming disobedience, but a real inability. Meanwhile, I simply remark that neither the authority which the law confers on him, nor the obedience to which I am bound, is indiscriminate. Among orders, some have no sanction, while the disregard of others justifies anger and punishment. My father may be ill, and I neglect him; he may charge me with the management of his house, and I take no notice; he may tell me to look after his country estate, and I evade the task. In all these and similar cases, the parental censure will be well deserved. But other things again are for the sons to decide, as questions of professional skill or policy — especially if the father’s interests are not touched. If a painter’s father says to him, ‘Paint this, my boy, and do not paint that’; or a musician’s, ‘Strike this note, and not the other’; or a bronze-founder’s, ‘Cast so-and-so’; would it be tolerable that the son should be disinherited for not taking such advice? Of course not.
But the medical profession should be left still more to their own discretion than other artists, in proportion to the greater nobility of their aims and usefulness of their work; this art should have a special right of choosing its objects; this sacred occupation, taught straight from Heaven, and pursued by the wisest of men, should be secured against all compulsion, enslaved to no law, intimidated and penalized by no court, exposed to no votes or paternal threats or uninstructed passions. If I had told my father directly and expressly, ‘I will not do it, I refuse the case, though I could treat it, I hold my art at no man’s service but my own and yours, as far as others are concerned I am a layman’— if I had taken that position, where is the masterful despot who would have applied force and compelled me to practise against my will? The appropriate inducements are request and entreaty, not laws and browbeating and tribunals; the physician is to be persuaded, not commanded; he is to choose, not be terrorized; he is not to be haled to his patient, but to come with his consent and at his pleasure. Governments are wont to give physicians the public recognition of honours, precedence, immunities and privileges; and shall the art which has State immunities not be exempt from the patria fotestas?
All this I was entitled to say simply as a professional man, even on the assumption that you had had me taught, and devoted much care and expense to my training, that this particular case had been within my competence, and I had yet declined it. But in fact you have to consider also how utterly unreasonable it is that you should not let me use at my own discretion my own acquisition. It was not as your son nor under your authority that I acquired this art; and yet it was for your advantage that I acquired it — you were the first to profit by it —, though you had contributed nothing to my training. Will you mention the fees you paid? How much did the stock of my surgery cost you? Not one penny. I was a pauper, I knew not where to turn for necessaries, and I owed my instruction to my teachers’ charity. The provision my father made for my education was sorrow, desolation, distress, estrangement from my friends and banishment from my family. And do you then claim to have the use of my skill, the absolute control of what was acquired independently? You should be content with the previous service rendered to yourself, not under obligation, but of free will; for even on that occasion nothing could have been demanded of me on the score of gratitude.
My kindness of the past is not to be my duty of the future; a voluntary favour is not to be turned into an obligation to take unwelcome orders; the principle is not to be established that he who once cures a man is bound to cure any number of others at his bidding ever after. That would be to appoint the patients we cure our absolute masters; we should be paying them, and the fee would be slavish submission to their commands. Could anything be more absurd? Because you were ill, and I was at such pains to restore you, does that make you the owner of my art?
All this I could have said, if the tasks he imposed upon me had been within my powers, and I had declined to accept all of them, or, on compulsion, any of them. But I now wish you to look further into their nature. ‘You cured me of madness (says he); my wife is now mad and in the condition I was in (that of course is his idea); she has been given up as I was by the other doctors, but you have shown that nothing is too hard for you; very well, then, cure her too, and make an end of her illness.’ Now, put like that, it sounds very reasonable, especially in the ears of a layman innocent of medical knowledge. But if you will listen to what I have to say for my art, you will find that there are things too hard for us, that all ailments are not alike, that the same treatment and the same drugs will not always answer; and then you will understand what a difference there is between refusing and being unable. Pray bear with me while I generalize a little, without condemning my disquisition as pedantic, irrelevant, or ill-timed.
To begin with, human bodies differ in nature and temperament; compounded as they admittedly are of the same elements, they are yet compounded in different proportions. I am not referring at present to sexual differences; the male body is not the same or alike in different individuals; it differs in temperament and constitution; and from this it results that in different men diseases also differ both in character and in intensity; one man’s body has recuperative power and is susceptible to treatment; another’s is utterly crazy, open to every infection, and without vigour to resist disease. To suppose, then, that all fever, all consumption, lung-disease, or mania, being generically the same, will affect every subject in the same way, is what no sensible, thoughtful, or well-informed person would do; the same disease is easily curable in one man, and not in another. Why, sow the same wheat in various soils, and the results will vary. Let the soil be level, deep, well watered, well sunned, well aired, well ploughed, and the crop will be rich, fat, plentiful. Elevated stony ground will make a difference, no sun another difference, foothills another, and so on. Just so with disease; its soil makes it thrive and spread, or starves it. Now all this quite escapes my father; he makes no inquiries of this sort, but assumes that all mania in every body is the same, and to be treated accordingly.
Besides such differences between males, it is obvious that the female body differs widely from the male both in the diseases it is subject to and in its capacity or non-capacity of recovery. The bracing effect of toil, exercise, and open air gives firmness and tone to the male; the female is soft and unstrung from its sheltered existence, and pale with anaemia, deficient caloric and excess of moisture. It is consequently, as compared with the male, open to infection, exposed to disease, unequal to vigorous treatment, and, in particular, liable to mania. With their emotional, mobile, excitable tendencies on the one hand, and their defective bodily strength on the other, women fall an easy prey to this affliction.
It is quite unfair, then, to expect the physician to cure both sexes indifferently; we must recognize how far apart they are, their whole lives, pursuits, and habits, having been distinct from infancy. Do not talk of a mad person, then, but specify the sex; do not confound distinctions and force all cases under the supposed identical title of madness; keep separate what nature separates, and then examine the respective possibilities. I began this exposition with stating that the first thing we doctors look to is the nature and temperament of our patient’s body: which of the humours predominates in it; is it full-blooded or the reverse; at, or past, its prime; big or little; fat or lean? When a man has satisfied himself upon these and other such points, his opinion, favourable or adverse, upon the prospects of recovery may be implicitly relied upon.
It must be remembered too that madness itself has a thousand forms, numberless causes, and even some distinct names. Delusion, infatuation, frenzy, lunacy — these are not the same; they all express different degrees of the affection. Again, the causes are not only different in men and women, but, in men, they are different for the old and for the young; for instance, in young men some redundant humour is the usual cause; whereas with the old a shrewdly timed slander, or very likely a fancied domestic slight, will get hold of them, first cloud their understanding, and finally drive them distracted. As for women, all sorts of things effect a lodgement and make easy prey of them, especially bitter dislike, envy of a prosperous rival, pain or anger. These feelings smoulder on, gaining strength with time, till at last they burst out in madness.
Such, sir, has been your wife’s case, perhaps with the addition of some recent trouble; for she used to have no strong dislikes, yet she is now in the grasp of the malady — and that beyond hope of medical relief. For if any physician undertakes and cures the case, you have my permission to hate me for the wrong I have done you. Yet I must go so far as to say that, even had the case not been so desperate — had there been a glimmer of hope — even then I should not have lightly intervened, nor been very ready to administer drugs; I should have been afraid of what might happen, and of the sort of stories that might get about. You know the universal belief that every step-mother, whatever her general merits, hates her step-sons; it is supposed to be a feminine mania from which none of them is exempt. If the disease had taken a wrong turn, and the medicine failed of its effect, there would very likely have been suspicions of intentional malpractice.
Your wife’s condition, sir — and I describe it to you after close observation —, is this: she will never mend, though she take ten thousand doses of medicine. It is therefore undesirable to make the experiment, unless your object is merely to compel me to fail and cover me with disgrace. Pray do not enable my professional brethren to triumph over me; their jealousy is enough. If you disinherit me again, I shall be left desolate, but I shall pray for no evil upon your head. But suppose — though God forbid!— suppose your malady should return; relapses are common enough in such cases, under irritation; what is my course then to be? Doubt not, I shall restore you once more; I shall not desert the post which nature assigns to children; I for my part shall not forget my descent. And then if you recover, must I look for another restitution? You understand me? your present proceedings are calculated to awake your disease and stir it to renewed malignancy. It is but the other day that you emerged from your sad condition, and you are vehement and loud — worst of all, you are full of anger, indulging your hatred and appealing once more to the law. Alas, father, even such was the prelude to your first madness.