Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 13

Lecture on the Turkish Bath

Lecture on the Turkish Bath.

On Monday evening a lecture on the Turkish Bath was delivered in the neat sessions' court-house of Bruff by Dr Bennett, the respected resident physician of that town, before a numerous and fashionable assembly. The lecture was delivered with the view of effecting; two objects, one of which, in truth, next to religion, ought to be regarded as the primary one of this life, namely, the restoration of page 19 health to one's self and to his poorer neighbour, and to enable an institution which is a blessing to the latter to sustain itself. The court house was tastefully lighted up, and all the arrangements were excellent. At eight o'clock, on the motion of R. Franks, Esq., R.M., seconded by the Rev. Grantley Shelton, and carried una voce, the chair was taken by

The Very Rev. Archdeacon Cregan, P.P., Bruff, who, addressing the meeting, said that in performing the duty of chairman he had been saved a great deal of trouble, for he need not be looking about for set phrases in order to enable him to introduce to the meeting Dr Bennett, whom they all knew long and well, and to whose kindness of heart every one who knew him would bear witness; and whose sole object in coming before an audience on that evening was not only to speak to them upon a subject which he himself had studied, and the beneficial effects of which he had personally experienced, but also to forward the cause of benevolence and Christian charity. Dr Bennett would, in the course of his lecture, give the experiences of his own large practice as a physician, and his well known medical skill. He would speak of the successful application of the Turkish Bath in his own case, and would recommend its use as the most "painless"—nay, the most "pleasant" restorer of health, and as one of the greatest means which a beneficent Providence has put into the hands of man to enable him to enjoy health, and to live to "a hale old age."

Dr Bennett then came forward and said—Mr Archdeacon, Ladies, and Gentlemen,—I have been somewhat overcome by the flattering manner in which my name has been introduced, and by the kind reception it has received from the meeting. It is most gratifying to my feelings to see so many kind friends rallying round mo on the present occasion. It is gratifying to me to find myself on this evening surrounded by men who have written largely on the subject of my lecture, and whose actions confer honour on themselves and humanity. It is, I repeat, a high honour for any man, no matter how exalted his position in society may be, to find himself associated with such men as those to whom I allude. I come now to the subject of my discourse, and it is one of the most important, in my estimation, that ever engrossed the attention of the public mind, because it is simple in its character, and perfectly satisfactory in its results. It is, in fact, to show you all how the life of man can be spared for many years without undermining his constitution by drugging him from "top to toe" with mercury and other nauseous stuffs, which he could tell them, as a physician of forty years' practice, was a consideration of no small importance. What then, is that application by which this universally desired result can be achieved? Simply the "Turkish page 20 Bath." The learned lecturer here entered into the history of the bath. He stated that it was known at an early period in Greece—"in that land where Sappho sang"—and which had been so beautifully written of by Byron. The Romans then took it up, and so anxious were these renowned people for baths that 4000 of them existed at one time in ancient Rome, and were used not only for their curative properties, but for their cleansing and purifying qualities. So fond of the bath were the Roman people that when Augustus Cæsar wished to curry favour with them, he gave them 40,000 baths a-day. When the Roman Empire was destroyed, the Turks took up the use of the bath, and so attached were they also to it that its constant use has become an important item in their religious system. But the Grecian, Roman, and Turkish Baths were imperfect, and it remained for an Irishman—Dr Barter—to improve the Bath and render it perfect. And should not the meeting be proud at having such a man amongst them—a man who, by his skill, had discovered the means by which many a dying man might be restored to life. He (Dr Bennett) did not look on the Turkish Bath as a panacea for every evil to which mankind was heir. But he would be an ungrateful man if he did not publish to the world its almost magic powers as a restorer to health. How did he discover these powers? By experiencing its effects upon himself, coupled with long conversations with Dr Barter, and the minute personal investigation of numerous cases at St Ann's, when he became convinced that the Turkish Bath, although it could not prevent death—for all created things must die—was an effectual remedy for those evils which in many cases shorten life, and that by its use health and life could be prolonged. He saw a patient there whose lungs were crepitating from top to bottom. He found another who was suffering under heart disease. He saw gentlemen there labouring under bronchitis and haemoptysis, and by the use of the bath they were restored to health, and life, and he (Dr Bennett) had seen those very people who could hardly crawl when they took up their residence at St Ann's, walking about, in a few weeks, as lively as chickens. He saw men there who had come to it all the way from Australia and California, and he saw them cured. He saw the poor there attended and supported. The learned doctor here explained to the meeting the nature of the charitable institution founded by Dr Barter for the poor. The poor had baths, were attended even by Dr Barter himself, and were mainly supported by that good and excellent man, and he hoped the meeting would aid that estimable charity. The learned lecturer then proceeded to describe his own personal experience of the benefits derived from the use of the Turkish Bath. For instance, he knew it to be an infallible remedy for rheumatism, and as for the page 21 gout—ah! if he did not know what the gout was he knew nothing. He was attacked with retrocedent gout, which affected his vital organs, and he was under the solemn conviction that he was all but a gone man. He then detailed how he went to Kilkee, to Queens, town, to Cork, and to Dublin, to seek the aid of his medical brethren. One prescribed this, and another that, but he only progressed from bad to worse. (A voice: "No wonder, when they did nothing but pour poison into you.") He returned home, and for seven months suffered agonies that he could not describe. He could not look at food: so ill was he, that the report that he was dead was spread abroad, and seven interested friends were busy canvassing for his appointment as physician to the Bruff dispensary! His clergyman, whose unavoidable absence that night he much regretted, and to whom indirectly he owed his life, calling on him in his daily ministrations said to him—"Have you ever tried the Turkish Bath? If not, you should go up at once to Dr Barter's." He then said to Mrs Bennett, "I'll go up to St Ann's." "If you do," said she, "I'll go with you." "Why so?" he said. "Because," she replied, "a medical friend has assured me that so sure as you enter Dr Barter's bath, you will die in it" (the old jargon and nonsense), "and I will go with you lest anything untoward should occur." "Well," he replied, "if it is God's wish that I should die in the bath, I'll die with a clean skin at all events, and up to St Ann's I'll go." Well, up to St Ann's he did go, and there he was addressing them with a clean skin, free from disease and suffering, and with, thank God, a renewed constitution. The lecturer then gave a detailed description of the treatment he received at St Ann's—how, when he went there, he sank exhausted on the sofa, and would have given a five-pound note, were it the last he was possessed of in the world, to have found his bed ready to receive him. Having been carefully examined by Dr Barter, he ordered him, in fear and trembling, to take the Turkish Bath twice the following day; and on telling him what the physician had told Mrs Bennett, he replied, "He has only shown his ignorance of the bath. Do as I tell you, go into it to-morrow morning." Having been carried to his first bath, he walked home after the third, as lively as a cricket. For three months previous to his arrival at St Ann's he had not known what sleep was, tossing about all night in pain and agony, but after his second bath, sleep returned to him in refreshing slumbers. In a few days he got rid of his pains, his appetite returned, and he became restored to health in an almost miraculous manner, having regained, with the daily use of the Bath during the fortnight he was at St Ann's, almost two stone in weight, out of the seven stone five lbs. which he had previously lost in nine months.

page 22

He then spoke of the powers of the bath to cure the drunkard from that dreadful propensity for alcohol which was burning his body, and damning his immortal soul by shutting it out from heaven, into which, as the Redeemer said, "no drunkard shall ever enter." The lecturer then read extracts from some ancient medical works to show that the most able physicians that ever lived, from the days of Hippocrates of Cos down to the present time, recommended air, water, and diet. "If you want to keep your body sound," said the physician of Cos, "you must purge it through the skin. I am going to my long home," he observed to a friend, "but I leave three things behind me for the preservation of human life." "What are they?" asked the friend. "Air, water, and diet." The opposition which the bath had to contend against they might imagine from the fact, that when he recently asked a medical friend in Cork, why he did not recommend it to his patients, his reply was, that he dare not do so, as, if he did, he would be read, "bell, book, and candle," out of meeting, and other physicians would refuse to consult with him. Having devoted himself as diligently as most men to the study of physiology and pathology, he gave it as his deliberate opinion, that every other means of cure was altogether subordinate to that mighty agent, the Turkish Bath. Had he had the same knowledge of its powers some thirty years ago that he had now, he felt satisfied that he might have saved by means of it many valuable lives, which for want of it had gone prematurely to their graves. He often reflected on that melancholy fact with sadness and remorse. The lecturer then concluded his very eloquent discourse by passing a high eulogium on Dr Barter, who should, he said be handed down to posterity as a benefactor of the human race. He had to contend against the sneers of his professional brethren, and against the counsel of false friends, but like Columbus, who discovered a new world, and like Harvey, who discovered the circulation of the blood, he persevered, and Providence blessed his efforts by enabling him to discover an effectual mode of eradicating disease and prolonging life. The lecturer was listened to throughout with that attention which demonstrated that the auditory felt a deep interest, not only in the speaker, but in the importance of the subject on which he spoke, and on its conclusion he resumed his seat amidst great applause.

Dr Barter proposed a vote of thanks to the learned lecturer, and, in doing so, spoke at much length upon the antiquity of the bath—its early use amongst the polished nations of old; its use now amongst the Turks; of the improvements which he had made in its construction, by which the inconvenience of the old bath was removed. He then spoke in a medical manner of its physical

page 23

properties, and their effects upon the human frame, particularly on the drunkard, who would become after the use of the bath, a sober member of society.

Dr Griffith said that Dr Bennett had come forward like an honest and fearless physician to tell his audience that night, for their own good, the benefit he had derived from the simple and rational treatment at St Ann's, when he had been brought to the brink of the grave by the poisonous drugging of the eminent allopathic practitioners, the heads of the profession whom he had consulted in Dublin and elsewhere. Of the contradictory opinions and treatment he had been subjected to, they had had a graphic account from him, but one Point all his prescribers had agreed on, and that was to drench his unfortunate system with the most deadly poisons they could select by way of curing him! whereas, the treatment at St Ann's was directed to eliminate all poisons out of him, instead of pouring any into him, and which system was most rational and successful, they had that evening an opportunity of seeing and judging for themselves. It would have been well for the benefit of mankind if the many medical men, or any of them, who from time to time had recovered their health at St Ann's, had honestly come forward like Dr Bennett, and given their experiences publicly to the world, which, he regretted to say, they had not done; but this fact might be stated, that every army and navy surgeon who had been a patient there—men who, from their position, were independent of the opinions and trades-union influences of their professional brethren, who had no object to serve but the advancement of truth—had one and all reported, in the highest terms, to their several departments respecting the beneficial influence of that unrivalled therapeutic agent, the Turkish Bath, and, as a consequence, grants had already been sanctioned by Parliament for the erection of baths at the Royal Military Hospital of Netley, near Southampton, and at the camp at Aldershott. To this he might add another fact, that the latest writers on the practice of medicine, viz., Drs Aitken, Hughes Bennett, and Hawkes Tanner, in England, and Austin Flint in America, recommend the Turkish Bath as the remedy par excellence in diabetes, Bright's disease, the various affections of the kidneys, and many other diseases; and this too, so quietly and silently that one would suppose that they were merely recording the practice of their lives,—an ancient and well-established one—instead of one the birth of yesterday, * the introducer of which they never refer to, and

* That is, as regards its introduction into allopathic practice. The antiquity of its use as a thereapeutic agent may be gathered from the fact, recorded by M. Corbel L'Agneau in his interesting work, "Trait complet des Bains," viz., that the only limit to its use by Hippocrates was the want of the bath in a sufficient number of his patients' houses.

page 24

reward for his exertions on behalf of humanity by refusing, with some few exceptions, to consult with. He (Dr G.) could himself sympathise with Dr Bennett's feelings on this occasion, having been himself placed in a similar position about ten years ago, when he arrived at St Ann's little better than a ghost, under the orthodox poisoning of the heads of the profession in Dublin. They told him that he must die at St Ann's, as he had no reaction or vitality to withstand the treatment there. He told them, in reply, that he was dying fast in their hands—that he could not be much worse, and that as he had known several cases of recovery there, he would go and take his chance. The result was that at the end of six weeks he had gained 15 lbs in weight, and felt stronger and better than ever he had recollected to have been in the whole course of his life. Now, what had he to thank for the loss of vitality with which they had reproached him? Nothing but the irrational and poisonous treatment of the allopathic school, whose death-knell had been long since sounded. For this result he did not blame them, as they did their best, according to the light that was in them; but he did blame them for their bigotry and determined opposition to all radical improvement in their art, that bigotry which led them at first to persecute the immortal Harvey, Ambrose Pare, Sir Charles Bell, and Jenner, next to adopt their discoveries, and afterwards when they were dead, and they could no longer injure them, to load their memories with never-ceasing commendation and praise. In taking exception to their treatment of him, he was acting as their best friend, as one who sought to place the healing art on a rational and imperishable basis, which could not be overturned, and would entitle it to the gratitude and confidence of the general community, instead of leaving it open to the obnoxious and satirical observation of the ancient proverb—" That there was no hope for a man until he was given over by his physician, as then being left to Nature, there was some chance of his recovery." He would ask his audience, the next time their physician prescribed for them a pill or draught, to ask him why he poisoned them because they had the misfortune to be sick Did they, or anybody in their senses, imagine that a substance that was poisonous or injurious to a person in health could be anything but worse than injurious to a person when sick, when, of course, they were less able to resist a morbid and debilitating influence? And when their physician told them "to dig their graves (for that was the hackneyed phrase) before they took a Turkish Bath," *let them ask him what he knew about it—whether he had ever taken

* This silly trash, which every honest physician should be ashamed to utter, is asserted of a Bath daily partaken of by millions of the people in the East, the free opening of which to his subjects was the greatest boon a Koman Emperor could confer upon them, and the clanger of taking which, in cases of aneurism and heart disease, is much less than that of taking ordinary walking exercise, and about equal to that of warming oneself before a comfortable fire.

page 25

one himself, or had any experience of its effects on others? They would find that utter ignorance of the bath and its effects always accompanied the advice referred to; let them, therefore, value it accordingly. At that late hour of the night he would not trespass further on their patience, but would content himself with seconding, with much pleasure, the vote of thanks to Dr Bennett for his instructive and interesting lecture, which he hoped they would all profit by.

Dr Bennett returned thanks, and the Rev. Mr Shelton having taken the second chair, a vote of thanks was passed to the Archdeacon for his dignified conduct in the chair, and the meeting separated.—Cork Herald, August 22, 1867.

The following letters, addressed by Dr Griffith to the Editor of the Medical Mirror, speak for themselves. They both assume the poisonous nature of alcohol, previously proved in Dr Griffith's letter in August (1867) number of the Medical Mirror, which space prevents us from reproducing here.

To the Editor of the "Medical Mirror."

Sir,—As nothing has tended more to bring the practice of medicine into contempt than the diametrically opposite prescriptions of its various disciples, it is most important for its progress that such discrepancies should be pointed out, and either harmonised together, or the true practice adopted, and the false disowned. With this view I would, with your permission, contrast with high authority what I consider the false and pernicious teaching of Dr Inman, in an article some months ago in your journal, where he strongly recommends the administration of alcoholic poison to young children, aye, even to infants only weaned. To say nothing of the absurdity and outrage on common sense, involved in the recommendation of a poison by way of benefiting a human being, young or old, I will content myself with quoting the following protests against Dr Inman's practice, which I, for one, humbly but loudly denounce as monstrous, deadly, and irrational.

Sir Anthony Carlisle, F.R.S., no mean authority, declares:—

"Of all errors in the employment of fermented liquors, that of giving them to children seems to be fraught with the worst consequences. The next in the order of mischief is their employment by nurses, and which I suspect to be a common occasion of dropsy of the brain in young infants."

page 26

Dr E. Smith, in his "Practical Dietary," says, at page 162:—

"Alcohols are largely used by many persons, in the belief that they support the system and maintain the supply of milk for the infant; but I am convinced that this is a serious error, and is not an unfrequent cause of fits and emaciation in the child."

Dr Williams says:—

"Alcoholic liquors act as stimulants when taken into the stomach. At first they provoke appetite, and enable the organ to dispose of a greater quantity of food; but soon the digestive power fails in consequence of the exhaustion that necessarily follows an undue excitement, and inappetency, nausea, or even vomiting, ensue."

"When will the guardians of the public health cease to betray their trust by administering poisonous and unnatural stimuli, by way of curing their patients? When we find.alcohol, calomel, and opium amongst the health restoring agents administered to children, who can wonder at the frightful mortality amongst them revealed to us by statistics? Surely Dr Reid wrote soberly and truly when he said that "More infantile subjects are perhaps daily destroyed by the pestle and mortar, than in the ancient Bethlehem fell victims in one day to the Herodian massacre." Nor did Sir Astley Cooper falsely declare that "The science of medicine is founded on conjecture, and improved by murder."

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Richard Griffith, Jun., Ch.M., T.C.D.

St Ann's Hill, Cork, Nov. 11, 1867.