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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


I54 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. Queen Street. hospitality was princely, his charity and his philanthropy to the poor were boundless; and amid the crowds of patients and visitors-many of them of the highest rank in Europe-with whom his house overflowed, the grand professor moved with unaffected ease and gaiety, and talking of everything, from some world-wide discovery in the most severe of the severer sciences, to the last new novel. He had.a !vord or a jest for all. How he camed on his gigantic practice-how he achieved his splendid and apparently unaccountable scientific investigations-how he found time for his antiquarian and literary labours, and yet was able to take a prominent part in every public, and still more in every philanthropic, movement, was ever a mystery to all who knew him. But during the long and weary watches of the night, beside the ailing or the dying, when watching perilous cases with which he alone could grapple, he sat by the patient?s side with book or pen in hand, for not a moment of his priceless time was ever wasted. ? Many of my most brilliant papers,? he once said to his students, ?were composed at the bedside of my patients.? Yet he never neglected them, even the most poor and needy-and they had his preference even to the peers and princes of the land. As a physician he had fewer failures and made fewer mistakes than most men, and he saved the lives of thousands. Simpson was not a specialist-his mind was too broad and great for that; and no one ever excelled him in the ingenuity, simplicity, and originality of his treatment. When other men shrank from the issues of life and death, he was swift to do, to dare, and to save ; and it is a curious fact that on the night Simpson was born in his father?s humble abode in the village of Bathgate, the village doctor has marked in his case-book that on that occasion he ?amved too late ! ? By the introduction of chloroform into his practice, the labour of 2,000 years of investigation culminated. A new era was inaugurated for woman, though the clergy rose in wrath, and denounced it as an interference with the laws of Providence. It was on the 28th of November, 1847, that he became satisfied of the safety of using chloroform by?experimenting on himself and two other medical men. ? Drs. Simpson, Keith, and Duncan,? we are told, (? sat each with a. tumbler in hand, and in the tumbler a napkin. Chloroform was poured upon each napkin, and inhaled. Simpson, after a while, drowsy as he was, was roused by Dr. Duncan snoring, and by Dr. Keith kicking about in a far from graceful way. He saw at once that he must have been sent to sleep by the chloroform. He saw his friends still under its effects. In a word, he saw tliat the great discovery had been made, and that his long labours had come to a successful end.? Since then how much bodily anguish has vanished under its silent influence! In Britain there are now many manufactories of chloroform; and in Edinburgh alone there is one which makes about three millions of doses yearly-evidence, as Simp son said, of ? the great extent to which the practice is now carried of wrapping men, women, and children in a painless sleep during some of the most trying moments and hours of human existence, and especially when our frail brother man is laid upon the operating-table and subjected to the torture of the surgeons? knives and scalpels, his saws and his cauteries.? As to his invention of acupressure in lieu of the ligature, though its adoption has not become general throughout the surgical world, the introduction of this simple method of restraining haemorrhage would of itself have entitled Simpson to enrol his name among the greatest surgeons of Europe. The last great movement with which he was connected was hospital reform. He argued that while only one in 180 patients who had even an arm amputated died in the country or in their homes, one in thirty died in hospitals. His idea was that the unit of a hospital was not the ward, but the bed, and the ideal hospital should have every patient absolutely shut off from every other, so that the unhealthy should not pollute or injure the healthy. As an antiquarian and archeologist he held the highest rank, and for some years was president of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. His religious addresses were remarkable for their sweetness, freshness, and fervour ; and one which he gave at the last of some special religious services held in the Queen Street Hall during the winter of 1861-2 made a great impression on all who heard him. He was member of a host of learned societies, the mere enumeration of which would tire the reader. ?These were his earthly honours; but :heir splendour pales when we think that on what- :ver spot on earth a human being suffers, and is released from anguish by the application of those liscoveries his mighty genius has revealed to manrind, his name is remembered with gratitude, and issociated with the noblest and greatest of those who, in all ages of the world, have devoted their ives and their genius to enlightening and brightenng the lot of humanity.? . I
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Queen Spcet.1 PROFESSOR WILSONS MOTHER. I < < He died of disease of the heart at 52, Queen Street, on the 6th May, 1870, and never was man more lamented by all ranks and classes of society ; and nothing in life so became him, as the calmness and courage with which he left it. His own great skill had taught him that from the first his recovery was doubtful, and in speaking of a possibly fatal issue, his principal reason for desiring life was that he hoped, if it were God?s will, that he might have been spared to do a little more service in the cause of hospitak reform ; all his plsns and prospects were limited by this reference to t!ie Divine will. ?If God takes me to-night,? said he to a friend, ? I feel that I am resting on Christ with the simple faith of a child.? And in this faith he passed away. His funeral was a great and solemn ovation indeed ; and never since Thomas Chatmers was laid in his grave had Edinburgh witnessed such a scene as that exhibifed in Queen Streqt on the 13th May. From the most distant shires, even of the Highlands aed the northern counties of England, and from London, people came to pay their last tribute to him whom one of the London dailies emphatically styled ?the grand old Scottish doctor.? St. Luke?s Free Church, near his house, was made the meeting place of the general public. In front of the funeral car were the Senatus Academicus, headed by the principal, Sir Alexander Grant of Dalvey, and the Royal College of Physicians, all in academic costume; the magistrates, with all their official robes and insignia; all the literary, scientific, legal, and commercial bodies in the city sent their quota of representatives, which, together with the High Constables and students, made altogether 1,700 men in deep mourning. The day was warm and bright, and vast crowds thronged every street from his house to the grave on the southern slope of Wnrriston cemetery, and on every side were heard ever and anon the lamentations of the poor, while most of the shops were closed, and the bells of the churches tolled. The spectators were estimated at IOO,OOO, and the most intense decorum prevailed. An idea of the length of the procession may be gathered from the fact that, although it consisted of men marching in sections of fours, it took upwards of. thirty-three minutes to pass a certain point. A grave was offered in Westminster, but declined DY his family, who wished to have him buried among themselves. A white marble bust of him by Brodie was, however, placed there in 1879. NO. 53 Queen Street, the house adjoining that of Sir James, was the residence of Mrs. Wilson, mother of Professor John Wilson, widow of a wealthy gauze manufacturer. Her maiden name was Margaret Sym, and her brother Robert figures in the Noctes Ambrosiamz, under the cognomen of I? Timothy Tickler.? Wilson?s Memoirs ? contain many of his own letters, datedfrom thke, after r806 till his removal to Anne Street. There he wrote his I? Isle of Palms,? prior to his marriage with Miss Jane Penny in May, I 8 I I, and there, with his young wife and her sisters, he was resident with the old lady at the subsequent Christmas. His father left him an unencumbered fortune of ~ 5 0 , 0 0 0 , which had enabled him to cut a good figure at Oxford. ?A little glimpse of the life at 53 Queen Street, and the pleasant footing subsisting between the relatives gathered there, is afforded in a note of young Mrs. Wilson about this time to a sisterYm says Mrs. Gordon. ?She thanks ?Peg? for her note, which, she says, ?was sacred to myself. It is not my custom, you may tell her, to show my letters to John.? She goes on to speak of Edinburgh society, dinners, and evening parties, and whom she most likes. The Rev. Mr. Morehead is Mr. Jeffrey is ? a homd little man,? but ? held in as high estimation here as the Bible.? Mrs. Wilson senior gives a ball, and 150 people are invited. ? The girls are looking forward to it with great delight. Mrs. Wilson is very nice with them, and lets them ask anybody they like. There is not the least restraint put upon them. John?s poems will be sent from here next week. The large size is a guinea, and the small one twelve shillings.? ? Elsewhere we are told that John Wilson?s ? home was in Edinburgh. His mother received him into her house, where he resided till 1819.? She was a lady whose domestic management was the wonder and admiration of all zealous housekeepers. Under one roof, in 53 Queen Street, she contrived to accommodate three distinct families; and there, besides the generosity exercised towards her own, she was hospitable to all, and her chanty to the poor was unbounded ; and when she died, ?it was, as it were, the extinction of a bright particular star, nor can any one who ever saw her altogether forget the effect of her presence. She belonged to that old school of Scottish ladies whose refinement and intellect never interfered with duties the most humble.? In those days in Edinburgh the system of a household neither sought nor suggested a number of servants ; thus many domestic duties devolved upon the lady herself: for example, the china -usually a rare set-after breakfast and tea, was a great favourite
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