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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XIV. Some Political and Social Aspects of the Later Elizabethan and Earlier Stewart Period

§ 26. The Medical Profession

The physician’s profession, about this time, was being disentangled, on the one hand, from that of the clergyman, with which of old it had been frequently combined, and, on the other, from the trade of the apothecary—a purveyor of many things besides drugs, who was more comfortably and fashionably housed in London than was his fellow at Mantua—and from that of the barber, who united to his main functions those of dentist and yet others, announced by his long pole, painted red. The pretensions of both physicians and surgeons to a knowledge of which they fell far short were still a subject of severe censure; but little or nothing was said in or outside the profession against what was still the chief impediment to the progress of medical science—its intimate association with astrology. The physician took every care to preserve the dignity which lay at the root of much of his power, attiring himself in the furred gown and velvet cap of his doctor’s degree, and riding about the streets, like his predecessor in the Middle Ages, with long foot-cloths hanging down by the side of his horse or mule. The education of physicians was carried on much like that of lawyers, with care and comfort, and seems, at least sometimes, to have been deemed a suitable stage in the complete training of a gentleman. The scientific and practical value of the medical training of the day is a theme beyond the purpose of this sketch. Medical treatment, in many respects, was old-fashioned in no flattering sense of the term; in the case of new diseases, it was savage; in the case of mental disease, barbarous—“a dark house and a whip.”