The New York Times, Mar. 9, p.3, reported on Sam’s speech:
MARK TWAIN ON MEDICINE
He Discusses the Progress Made in the Science.
Justice Woodward, Another Guest at
Medical Jurisprudence Society Dinner Deals with Expert Testimony.
Mark Twain was the principal speaker at the Hotel Savoy last night at the dinner in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Medical Jurisprudence. He said at the outset of his remarks that it was a pleasure to watch a company of gentlemen “in that condition which is peculiar to gentlemen who have had their dinners.” That was a time, said Mr. Clemens, when the real nature of man came out.
“As a rule,” he continued, “we go about with masks, we go about looking honest, and we are able to conceal ourselves all through the day. But when the time comes that man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface. I could see it here this evening. I noticed the burst of applause when Judge O’Brien got up to speak, and I knew that he was either an exceedingly able man or else that a lot of you practice in his court. [Laughter.] You have been giving yourselves away all evening. One speaker got up here and urged you to be honest, and there was no response.
“Now, I want you to remember that medicine has made all its progress during the past fifty years. One member of this society sent me a typewritten judicial decision of the year 1809 in a medical case with the suggestion that this was the kind of medicine to have, and that the science of medicine had not progressed, but gone back. This decision went on and described a sort of medicine I used to take myself fifty years ago, and which was in use also in the time of the Pharaohs, and all the knowledge up to fifty years ago you got from five thousand years before that.
“I now hold in my hand Jaynes’s Medical Dictionary, published in 1745. In that book there is a suggestion as to what medicine was like a long time ago. How many operations that are in use now were known fifty years ago?—they were not operations, they were executions. [Laughter.]
“I read in this book the case of a man who ‘died from a severe headache.’ Why ‘severe?’ The man was dead. Didn’t that cover the ground? [Laughter.] This book goes on to say: ‘A certain merchant about fifty years of age, of a melancholy habit, and deeply involved in affairs of the world, was, during the dog days’— with a capital D-‘seized with a violent pain of his head, which some time after kept him in bed. I being called ‘—remember this man was a regular—‘ordered vennisection in the arms, bleeding; I also ordered the application of leeches to the vessels of his nostrils; I also ordered the application of leeches to his forehead and temples, and also behind his ears.’
“Now you see,” continued Mark Twain, holding the old medical book in his hand, “he has got him fringed all over with leeches. But that was not enough, for he goes on to say: ‘I likewise ordered the application of cup glasses, with scarification on his back.’ Now, he has township maps carved all over him, and all this is for a headache. But notwithstanding these precautions the man dies, or rather, perhaps, I might have said, because of these precautions the man dies. [Laughter.] Now this physician goes on to say: ‘If any surgeon skilled in arterial anatomy had been present, I should also have ordered an operation.’ [Laughter.] He was not satisfied with what he had done, with the precautions he had already taken, but he wanted apparently to put a pump into that man and pump out what was left. [Laughter.]
“Now all that has passed away, and modern medicine and surgery have come in. Medicine was like astronomy, which did not move for centuries. When a comet appeared in the heavens it was a sign that a Prince was going to die! It was also a sign of earthquakes and of pestilence and other dreadful things. But they began to drop one thing after another. They finally got down to earthquakes and the death of a Prince as the result of the appearance of a comet, until in 1818 a writer in The Gentlemen’s Magazine found at least one thing that a comet was sent for, because it was of record that when the comet appeared in 1818 all the flies in London went blind and died. [Laughter.] Now they had got down to flies. [Laughter.]
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.