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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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Rev, Sir,—Believing that you take a deep interest in the parish, I inflict on you rather a formidable letter, to tell you something of the new 'Cure' and new 'Machine' recently introduced among us, destined, let us hope, to play a deal of havoc with some of our diseases, and contribute to the health and comfort of the people.

The Great Sulphur Cure! What is that? That sulphur is the grand specific for a certain cutaneous epidemic, nameless and unassuming, hitherto grossly maligned and despised? Not at all. But that on the basis of this indisputable fact have been reared a theory of disease and plan of treatment, fitted (as some think) to make a revolution in medicine, and regenerate the world. Having recently put this principle to the test both of reasoning and experiment, my object is honestly to tell you the result. But first you may ask, How did I come to learn of it at all?

Well, though Biggar be situated midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, that does not exactly mean the centre of the earth, but a retired nook of the world hid by Bizzyberry on the one side, and Tinto on the other, which important news of great events transpiring in Kirkcaldy may take a time to reach. In the centre of civilisation just named lives a certain innovating 'James Dewar, Esq., M.D.' which means, I suppose, a plain country doctor like myself. Like some of his tribe, this gentleman presumed not long ago to issue a pamphlet by way of instructing the world how to cure diseases. A van-driver of our district, whose uncommon knack of fishing out all sorts of strange and funny books, from both sides of the Atlantic, is quite commendable, happened to get hold of it; and after passing through various hands it came to me; a dirty, soiled, unpretending-looking thing, with some such title as 'The Curative Powers of Sulphurous Acid Gas.' 'Pshaw 1' thought I, 'what has a little man like that got to say on cures? Sagacious enough in one thing certainly; to give his curative gas as high-sounding a name as possible. Such a splendid chemical term means neither more nor less than the common sulphur fumes emitted by a lucifer-match when burning, that we smook our bees with and whiten our wool. And though many an old wife has told me that sulphur itself is worth its weight in gold, all ages and genders agree in regard to the nasty fumes, to got out of their page 10 way as quickly as we can. Even the Bible itself represents Tophet and Gehenna as filled with them, to impress on us how fearful is the fate of the wicked in being compelled to breathe them!'

The truth is, having recently been asked to write for a popular journal a few papers on diet, as it so happened I was scribbling over at the time the last of the series, entitled 'Stone Broth; or could the Millennium be ushered in by Pills?' And as nobody would like to have the quality of his 'broth' contaminated by sulphur, it was very natural to neglect the pamphlet. 'Can the van-driver expect me to awaken from my alluring celestial dreams by such a mundane, paltry, stifling thing as a sulphur smell?' The Millennium, however, being duly ushered in to my own satisfaction and the happiness of the world; in the very year 1867 too, as all the minor prophets from Dr. Cumming downwards confidently predicted; ushered in, alas! only in a dream, I then seriously perused the pamphlet. 'Pipes and tobacco! what is this?' was my first sensation of profound astonishment. 'This country doctor has ushered in the blessed era already, not in a dream, but in downright reality, in Kirkcaldy at any rate! A valuable and amazing pamphlet altogether, or rather "Millennial Harbinger," whose good news of deliverance to an afflicted world have been as much neglected by myself and others as Matthew's Gospel!' For what is the purport of all its doctrines? That a potency lurks in common sulphur which philosophers and physicians, statesmen and divines, to say nothing at all of lucifer-match makers, little dreamed of. That to sulphur fumes, as a curative measure, almost nothing in the shape of disease ever comes amiss; stifling into silence any great epidemic raging in the earth, as easily as they can stifle a roaring vent. Armed with this weapon, the magician, Dr. Dewar, cares not a penny whether called on to fight a chilblain or the rinderpest, to clear a hen-roost or choke the cholera: epidemics of all sorts and sizes, high or low, cattle or human, anything you like, 'It's a' ane to Dandy!'

In other words, that sulphur fumes are infallible in killing the poison of cattle-plague, pleuro-pneumonia, cholera, diphtheria, nearly all ulcerations of throat or windpipe, fever, asthma, asthmatic bronchitis, croup, perhaps consumption itself, glanders and greasy heels in horses, etc.; in fact, all zymotic diseases whatever; to say nothing of such trifles as chaps, chilblains, common colds and influenzas, hoarseness, sores of all kinds, skin eruptions, horses' hacks, that pest of mothers the 'snifters' in babes, etc. etc. Further, that these fumes, condensed by water into a liquid form, can be injected into human lungs and windpipes by a magical machine called a Spray-producer, and produce the most astonishing results, sometimes almost in the twinkling of an eye!

I am sure, Rev. Sir, you will agree with me by this time that the subject is important; that instead of a mountain in labour bringing forth a mouse, the process has been reversed. A little scribbling country mouse has brought forth a mountain—a mountain too of prodigious size. In the light both of reason and experiment, let us attend for a page 11 little to this medical 'mountain,' this Etna or Vesuvius, by whose lurid flame and suffocating fumes it is proposed to fumigate the world, and clear the earth of all its plagues.