50 Reasons For Being a Homeopath part: 1 (fever)

’50 Reasons For Being a Homeopath’ is a lovely little book. It consists of 50 letters from the famous homeopathic doctor J. Compton Burnett to a young skeptic ‘Dr T.A.K’ & was written around 1888. It still shines with truth today.


Part 1:

“A number of years ago, on a dull, dreary afternoon, which I had partly occupied at ‘B’ hospital with writing death certificates, I suddenly rose & felt something come over me for the fiftieth time at that period. I hardly knew what, but it grew essentially out of my unsatisfactory clinical results. I had been an enthusiastic student of medicine originally, but an arrantly sceptic professor quite knocked the bottom out of all my faith in physic, while overmuch hospital work and responsibilities, grave beyond my age and experience, had squeezed a good deal of enthusiasm out of me. After pacing up and down the surgery, I threw myself back in the chair and dreamily thought myself back to the green fields and the early bird’s-nesting and fishing days of my childhood. Just then a corpse was carried by the surgery window and I turned to the old dispenser and enquired in a petulent tone, “Tim, who’s that dead now?” “Little Georgie, Sir.”

Now little Georgie was a waif who belonged to nobody, and we had liked him and had kept him about in odd beds, as one might keep a pet animal. Everybody liked little Georgie; the most hardened old pauper would do him a good turn, and no one was ever more truly regretted than he.

It all came about in this way: One day I wanted a bed for an acute case, and I ordered little Georgie out of his bed in a warm, snug corner to another that was in front of a cold window; he went to it, caught cold, had pleurisy, and Tim’s reply gives the result.

Said I to myself: If I could only have stopped the initial fever that followed the chill by the window, Georgie had probably lived. But three medical men besides myself had treated Georgie -all in unison- and all hospital men; still pleurisy followed the febricula, dropsy followed the pleurisy, and poor little Georgie had died. Old Tim was a hardened man and I never saw him show any feeling or sentiment of any kind, or regret anybody’s death, but I verily believe he was very near dropping just one wee tear over Georgie’s memory, for I noticed that his attention was needlessly and unwontedly fixed on the surfaces of the bottles he was washing. Be that as it may, Georgie was no more, and I FELT SURE THAT HE NEED NOT HAVE DIED, and this consciousness nearly pressed me down into the earth.

That evening a medical friend from the Royal Infirmary turned up to dinner with me, and I told him of my trouble and of my half determination to go to America and turn farmer: at least I should be able to lead a wholesome natural life.

He persuaded me to study Homeopathy first, and refute it, or, if apparently true, to try it in the hospital.

After many doubts and fears – very much as if I was contemplating a crime – I procured Hughe’s Pharmaco-dynamics and Therapeutics (http://www.minervabooks.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&keyword=pharmacodynamics&category_id=0&product_id=817 & http://www.minervabooks.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&manufacturer_id=421&product_id=791), which my friend said were a good introduction to homeopathy.

I mastered their main points in a week or two, and came from a consideration of these to the conclusion that either Homeopathy was a very grand thing indeed, or this Dr Hughes must be a big…… No, the word is unparliamentary. You don’t like the word? Well I do, it expresses my meaning to a T; on such an important subject there is for me no middle way. It must be either good clear God’s truth, or black lying. A fool the man could not possibly be, since it would be quite impossible for a fool to write the books. And as he seemed to speak so eloquently from a noble soul, it lifted me right out of the slough of despond – for a little while, but then came a reaction: had I not often tried vaunted specifics and plans of treatment, and been direfully disappointed? So my old scepsis took possession of me. “What,” said I, “Can such things be?” No, impossible. I had been nurtured in the schools, and had been taught by good men and true that Homeopathy was therapeutic Nihilism. No, I could not be a Homeopath; I would try the thing at the bedside, prove it to be a lying sham, and expose it to an admiring profession!

I was full of febricula on account of Georgie’s fate, so I studied the say of the homeopaths thereon, and found that they claimed to cut short simple fever with Aconite. Ah, thought I, if that be true, Aconite would have saved little Georgie if given in time at the very onset.

Well, feverish colds and chills were common enough just then, and I had, moreover, a ward where children thus taken ill were put till their diseases had declared themselves, and then they were drafted off to the various wards, for that purpose provided, with pneumonia, pleurisy, rheumatism, gastritis, measles, as the case might be.

I had some of Fleming’s Tincture of Aconite in my surgery, and of this I put a few drops into a large bottle of water and gave it to the nurse of said children’s ward, with instructions to administer of it to all the cases on the one side of the ward as soon as they were brought in. Those on the other side were not to have the Aconitic solution, but were to be treated in the authorized orthodox way, as was theretofore customary. At my next morning visit I found nearly all the youngsters on the Aconite side feverless, and mostly at play in their beds. But one had the measles, and had to be sent to the proper ward. I found that Aconite did not cure measles. The others remained a day or two, and were then returned whence they had originally come.

Those on the non-Aconite orthodox side were worse, or about the same and had to be sent into hospital – mostly with localized inflammations, or catarrhs, measles etc.

And so it went on day after day: those that got Aconite were generally convalescent in twenty-four or forty-eight hour, except in the comparatively seldom cases where the seemingly simple chill was the prodromal stage of a specific disease such as measles, scarlatina, rheumatic fever: these were barely influenced by the Aconite. But the great bulk of the cases were all genuine chills, and the Aconite cured the greater part right off, though the little folks were usually pale, and had perspired, as I subsequently learned, needlessly much.

I had told the nurse nothing about the contents of my big bottle, but she soon baptized it “Dr Burnett’s Fever Bottle.”

For a little while I was simply dumbfounded, and I had spent much of my nights studying Homeopathy: I had no time during the day.

One day I was unable to go do my usual rounds through the wards; in fact, I think I was absent two days – from Saturday till Tuesday – and on entering the said children’s ward the next time in the early morning, the nurse seemed rather quiet, and informed me, with a certain forced dutifullness that all the cases might, she thought, be dismissed.  “Indeed,” said I, “how’s that?’ “Well doctor as you did not come round on Sunday and yesterday, I gave your fever medicine to them all; and indeed, I had not the heart to see you go on with your cruel experiments any longer: you are like all the young doctors that come here – you’re only trying experiments!”

I merely said “very well, nurse; give the medicine in future to all that come in.” This was done till I left the place, and the result of this Aconite medication for chills and febricula was usually rapid defervescence, followed by convalescence. But when the stomach was much involved, I at times found the Aconite useless, unless vomiting occurred, and so in such cases I administered a mild emetic, whereupon defervescence at once set in, and, though a homeopath for a good many years, I still think a mild emetic the right treatment when the stomach is laden and cannot unburden itself by natural vomit.

But still this is only by the way: I enter all these preliminary, incidental and comcomitant circumstances merely to put you on the same ground whereon I myself stand; they are not essential, for they only lead to this: Aconitum in febricula was, and is, my first reason for being a homeopath.

Have you as good a reason for being a “regular”?”

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3 Responses to 50 Reasons For Being a Homeopath part: 1 (fever)

  1. kevin morris August 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    A very moving story of James Compton Burnett’s ‘conversion’ to homoeopathy, which incidentally is printed in full in the biography of his daughter, the writer Ivy Compton Burnett.

    Burnett was a top student who was regarded as one of the best anatomists of his time. He had been scornful of homoeopathy, but his own honesty and the death of a well loved child in his hospital caused him to revise his views and become one of the leading British homoeopaths of his day.

    It is worth saying that one of his professors warned him that his ‘conversion’ was tantamount to professional suicide since a major career in medicine would be denied to him. Nevertheless, Burnett’s homoeopathic practice was a successful one, and dogged figure that he was, he was vehement in his defending and propagating homoeopathy amongst his conventional, or as homoeopaths would say, allopathic, brethren.

    He was not alone. One of the greatest figures in the early development of homoeopathy, Constantine Hering, (1800-80) was so critical of homoeopaths that he undertook research for one of his professors in order to prove the medical system wrong. During this work he gained a dissecting wound on his arm which didn’t respond to the conventional treatments of the day, but which was treated successfully by a homoeopath. He rapidly revised his views and went on to become a major figure in the development of homoeopathy, particularly in the US where he moved to in 1833 and remained until his death in 1880.

    This tradition continues to this day. I believe it is fair to say that most people consider homoeopathyas a career when they see its effectiveness, usually on themselves or on their loved ones. It was certainly the case for me and speaking to others I know it is a common experience.

  2. Le Canard Blanc August 23, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    Kevin is correct it is seeing how great homeopathy works that converts people to either use it as first choice health system or study it. It was homeopathy in 1918 that saved the lives of my grandmothers two youngest children when they were struck down and dying with swine ‘flu. From then on homeopathy was the main medicine used by my family and still is today and will be in the future.


  3. kevin morris August 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    That’s a touching story Blanche. I have heard of homoeopathy’s great success in the treatment of the patients suffering during the great flu epidemic that killed many millions worldwide but yours is the first connection with that time I have come accross. Some years ago I saw a tv program about the exhumation of a military figure who died during that epidemic. Apparently people died very quickly and it was the healthy who died most quickly. This person was well when he got up in the morning but he died later that day. The scientists were trying to find samples of the vitus bewcause they were researching a ‘cure’. The really silly thing is that there already is- homoeopathy. If our scientists and medical researchers had the wit to accept it the NHS and the country could be saved millions= probably billions.

    I wish my connection with homoeopathy was as long as your family’s. I was around 26 or 27 when I first heard of it and 33 when I first discovered its power. I was 48 when I had a major operation for cancer and four months later that I was told I was terminally ill. It was central to my recovery and has changed the direction of my life.

    Since then it has helped my daughter a good deal and I’m sure when she has her kids it will prove very useful for them. Homoeopathy is such a blessing. On the one hand it’s totally scientific in its following of laws, but its effects are so natural that its cures seem more like a miracle than a medical treatment.

    I’m 60 now and I hope that when I’m long gone my experiences of homoeopathy will live on in my antecedents.

    Best wishes,


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