Clarke: How I became a Homœopath?

Dr John Henry CLARKE

     Perhaps it may not be uninteresting to readers if I state at the outset how my own conversion to homœopathy came about. As is usually the case, I knew nothing whatever about it when I took my degree, since it is rarely mentioned by professors in the ordinary medical schools, and then only to be misrepresented. After my graduation at Edinburgh, by the advice of the late Dr. Angus Macdonald (one of the best friends I ever had), I took a voyage to New Zealand in charge of emigrants. On my return, having fixed on Liverpool as a likely field In which to start practice, I asked Dr. Macdonald to introduce me to some of the leading doctors in that city. This he promised to do, and eventually did – I have the letters to this day. They were never presented. The relatives with whom I was staying happened to be homœopaths ; and they suggested that I might do worse than go to the Homœopathic Dispensary in Hardman Street and see what was being done there. As the letters came not, by way of utilizing my time I went. Like Cæsar, I not only “went”, but I “saw” ; but here the parallel ended – I did not conquer ; homœopathy conquered me.

     I may say that at this period, having absorbed over 80 per cent. (if marks go for anything) of the drug-lore Sir Robert Christison had to impart, and having had sufficient opportunity for testing its value in practice, I had come pretty near the conclusion Oliver Wendell Holmes arrived at and put so neatly in his well-known saying : -“If all drugs were cast into the sea, it would be so much the better for man and so much the worse for the fish.” I believed than (and the belief has become rather fashionable since) that the chief function of a medical man was to find out what was the matter with people – if he could ; and supply them with common sense – id he happened to possess any. His duty was to treat people ; to cure them was out of the question ; and it would be the better for his honesty if he made no pretence to it.

     After a few weeks’ observation at the Liverpool Homœopathic Dispensary, a case was presented to me in private. A small boy of five, a relative of my own, was brought to me by his mother. Two years before, he had been badly scratched on the forehead by a cat, and when the scratches healed, a crop of warts appeared on the site of them. And there they remained up to that time in spite of diligent treatment by the family doctor ; As an allopath to homœopathy to see if that could help me. I consulted the authorities, and found that the principal drug which is credited with producing crops of warts is Thuja occidentalis. I ordered this, more by way of experiment than expecting much result ; but I said, if there was truth in homœopathy, it ought to cure. In a few days improvement was manifest ; in three weeks the warts were all gone. Rightly or wrongly I attributed, and still attribute, the result to Thuja, though it will no doubt be said that “charms” have done the same thing. Very well ; it any one will give me a system of charms that I can use with precision and produce with it such definite effects, and better, I shall be very glad to try it. As it was, I concluded that if homœopathy could give me results like that, homœopathy was the system for me. And with all due modesty be it spoken, homœopathy has been doing this kind of work for me ever since – for a period, that is, of some thirty years. Now I will leave personal matters and go on to my subject proper.