29 APRIL 1899, Page 8


Robert Burns and the Medical Profession. By William Findlay, M.D. (Alexander Gardner. Gs.)—The overflowing love of Scotchmen for Burns has led of late years to almost every section or phase of his life having a literature devoted to it. This book is another proof of hero-worship. It is devoted to an account of Burns's relations with medical men, from Dr. Mackenzie of Mauchline, his brother-mason and shrewd friend, to Maxwell of Dumfries, who attended him during his last illness, and Currie of Liverpool, who wrote his biography, and shortened his own life by doing so. The author, who is himself a medical man, shows judgment as well as enthusiasm, more especially when he comes to deal with the delicate and difficult questions involved in Currie's treatment of the " errors " and " infirmities " which possibly hastened Burns's end. The question as to whether Burns received proper medical treatment during his last and fatal illness seems never to have been questioned. According to one outspoken doctor who was in Dumfries—a lad, however, of sixteen—when the poet died, "Robert Burns died the doctor's

martyr The physician of Robert Burns believed that his liver was diseased, and placed him under a course of mercury.

In addition to this severity, the physician believed that sea-bathing was the best tonic after salivation. Thus he was sent to the Brow for sea-bathing. In the course of, I think, three weeks, he returned home from sea-bathing, inflated, black with dropsy, and soon died." Another doctor, speaking of Burns's last illness being of a rheumatic character, and of his being recommended to try sea-bathing, says : "No medical man of common-sense could think that a patient sinking under rheumatism and shattered in constitution was a fit subject for so violent a remedy as the cold bath." There are good things and odds and ends of curious information in this book, but it is far too long for the necessarily limited range of its subject, and Dr. Fincllay's style is far too diffuse.