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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Edmé Boursault (1638–1701)

The Quack Practises

From “The Flying Physician”


Cris.Pythagorus, Plato, Pancras, Hesiod, Cato——

Fer.What is this learned man saying? I’ll listen.

Cris.Vergil, Alexander, Lucullus——

Fer.Ye gods!

Cris.Scipio Africanus, Jodelet, Mascarille, Aristotle, Lucian—physicians of Cæsar, slayers of Alexander, you behold before you a phenix sprung from your ashes.

Fer.Can he be a physician? He talks like one.

Cris.Approach, ye great masters of learning, and behold the mysteries that medicine unfolds!

Fer.He is a doctor, to be sure.

Cris.Come and behold the herb of the Arabian sea——


Cris.Listen to me. Ego sum medicus. I am a past-master of the art medicinal, a disciple of Hippocrates. I can give balms and antidotes; by means of this most noble art I can predict that he who dies of fever in February will not be ill in March; that the year consists of four seasons; that blindness destroys the sight——

Fer.I do not doubt your rare knowledge. If I might dare to request——

Cris.What? Speak!

Fer.That you visit my daughter, whose life we despair of.

Cris.You have a daughter? It follows, then, that you are her father.

Fer.Yes, sir, and I fear that she will die.

Cris.Is she very ill?


Cris.She does wrong. I would advise her to stop it. Nothing may dominate us without becoming our complete master, and disease by its secret methods corrupts the flesh and destroys the body. The patient desirous of purifying himself must give his nature a lift. The vapor of the earth, opposed to illness, creates a channel through the frame. The cold Cancer renders the illness silent, the brave Zodiac faces Saturn, and if one agrees with these signs, it is clear that nothing so shortens life as death. These are the lessons that my authors have taught me. By the way, is your daughter dead?

Fer.No, sir.

Cris.Does she take food?

Fer.A little, thank Heaven!

Cris.Then she is not dead.

Fer.No, no!

Cris.So much the better. I am glad of it.

Fer.Glad of what? Before the day is over her life may fade out.

Cris.So much the worse. Has she been seen by a physician?


Cris.Then it is an evil design of hers to die without the proper ceremonies. Our school of medicine looks with suspicion upon all such. When a man is about to die, he should always have a physician to aid him in the process. Whoever takes it into his head to die without the proper forms of procedure causes a scandal. Inform your daughter, therefore, that she must not think of dying before I have seen her.

Enter LISE.
Lise.Ah, sir, your daughter is very ill.

Fer.How does she show it? I tremble.

Lise.She complains of her stomach. She finds no rest at all—gets up, lies down, and rises again.(Seeing CRISPIN.)Is that fellow a beggar?

Fer.No! He is the most perfect representative of the medical science I have been fortunate enough to meet.

Lise.A physician?

Cris.Certainly. My robe shows you that. But let us lose no time in putting my art to the test. Take me to the patient.

Lucr.Oh, father!

Fer.My child!


Lucr.I am dying!

Cris.I find you looking fairly well. Your humble servant. If my remedies prove vain, still you will have the satisfaction of dying under competent hands. So console yourself.


Cris.Let me feel your pulse, that I may ascertain whether death is really in such a hurry for you.(Instead of taking the wrist of LUCRESSE, he takes her father’s.)Dear me, how your pulse beats. I dislike telling you, but undoubtedly your disease is mortal. Take care.

Fer.Oh, Lord! what terrible news! Am I so ill as that?

Cris.You? How so?

Fer.It was my pulse that you felt!

Cris.And does that astonish you? Extreme tenderness makes one of father and daughter. Between them nature has established so close a relation that, though the personalities are two, the current of their blood is one; they are echoes of each other’s maladies, and the child’s illness is evident in the father.

Fer.How true!

Cris.Nevertheless, although my knowledge shines brightly even now, I will resolve to feel your daughter’s pulse.

Lucr.Here it is.

Cris.I suspected it. Nothing ails you except too much blood. Without that——

Lucr.But, sir, do you not see how near death I am?

Cris.Let me feel your pulse again. Have you fever?

Lucr.I don’t know.




Fer.At what?

Cris.Bad management. If she does not even know it, how can she be anything but very ill. Do you see?

Fer.Oh, that I knew the cause of her illness!

Cris.It’s fever. Nothing else. But, whether it be fever or gangrene or a fit, I know very well how to cure her.

Fer.(to LISE).Get pen and ink!

Cris.What for?

Fer.To write your prescription.

Cris.Nonsense, nonsense! I have it all ready. I carry one for every event—for the eyes, for the teeth. But, since she is ignorant of the nature of her disease, she certainly needs a prescription suitable to all the diseases among which hers may be found.