JOHN ELLIOTSON Autograph Letter.
British (English) surgeon and practitioner of mesmerism.
AL. 3pp. Conduit Street, Monday , no month or year [July 1838]. To Mr Shipman.
"Dr Elliotson requests of Mr Shipman to offer his best acknowledgements to the family of Dr Sims for their kindness in inviting him to follow the remains of their relative to the grave and to express his respects but his professional engagements will render it impossible for him to join in this solemn office. He avails himself of this opportunity of telling his unfeigned sorrow at the loss of so excellent and able a man; and to assure Mrs Sims that he did not know of Dr Sims's illness till he heard of his death or he would have called to make enquiries every day."
8vo. Approx 7.25 x 4.5 inches. Hole to left margin of last leaf (not touching any part of the text), else fine.
John Elliotson studied under Thomas Brown at Edinburgh and became professor of physic at London University. Elliotson was one of the first to appreciate the value of clinical lecturing, and one of the earliest among British physicians to advocate the use of the stethoscope. He was an experimenter with phrenology and mesmerism and wrote a book on the use of mesmerism in pain-free operations. His experiments in mesmerism (in which he used mostly poor, working-class girls from Ireland) were criticised. When he tried to repeat his findings using middle-class, professional men as his subjects a new publication, "The Lancet", ran a series of trials of his experiments during the summer of 1838. The jury of witnesses, drawn from the medical establishment, discredited Elliotson, and he was obliged to resign from his post at London University. This event was key in establishing the authority of The Lancet in medical research. John Elliotson continued to practice mesmerism and edited a magazine on the subject. In 1849 he founded a mesmeric hospital. The funeral of Dr Sims took place on 26th July 1838 and so, at the date of this letter, John Elliotson would have been heavily engaged in the trial of his experiments (which were taking place at the home of Thomas Wakley in Bedford Square) and embroiled in his dispute with the Lancet. These are presumably the "professional engagements" which made it impossible for him to attend Dr Sims' funeral. Letters of John Elliotson are scarce.