James William Barlow, Doctors at War: French Medical Profession around the 17th c. (London: 1914) - Extract

Source: Doctors at War; Studies of the French Medical Profession circa the 17th century (London: Nutt 1914). This sample has been extracted by Anne van Weerden [Utrecht] for style-identification testing in Secret Life of Pronouns, by James W. Pennebaker [see Input page] (Nov. 2021).


But it was to his position as member of the Faculty that the Parisian doctor was mainly indebted for his social importance. The duties and privileges of that great corporation were multifarious and weighty. In the wide field of medical jurisprudence they formed the only competent Court. All important measures of sanitary police passed necessarily through their hands. The water-supply of the city, the choice of cemeteries, the prevention of the adulteration of provisions, the regulation of quarantine, the decision whether this or that trade or manufacture should be prohibited as injurious to the public health - all in one way or another fell under the judicial cognizance of the doctors. It was no light matter to quarrel with such an institution as this. Louis XIV. himself once observed, no doubt with a rueful countenance, that it was only fair that a profession which caused so many tears should be made to afford a little laughter on the stage.

[10]
It becomes, therefore, a question of much interest to ascertain what was the cause that made a profession of such power, such influence and authority at the same time the butt par excellence of popular ridicule. What, in particular, could have been the reason for the war to the knife waged against the doctors by such a man as Moliere? Moliere’s dramatic career began and ended with an attack on the medical profession, and in the interval he fought with them what have been called four pitched battles, to say nothing of minor and incidental skirmishes. I say that his dramatic career began with an attack; for before his first regular Play in five acts, printed in his works as his first comedy - L’Etourdi, 1653-1658 - he made his dehut as a playwright with the Medecin Volant, in which may be traced some of the incidents of the famous Medecin Malgre Lui (1666). We all know that he received his death-stroke, by the rupture of a blood-vessel, while acting in his most tremendous onslaught, Le Malade Imaginaire (February, 1673).

[11]
It is plain that such persistent animosity on the part of such a man as Moliere must have had a deeper root than a mere desire to amuse the public at the expense of a particular class, and thereby to increase the gains of himself and his company of actors. This great observer of human nature must pave observed something in the typical doctor of his day which rendered him obnoxious to ceasless ridicule. This is an exception to Moliere’s usual mode of writing. He does not usually disparage with persistency one particular class. If, for instance, we find a foolish and vicious nobleman introduced on the stage, we can also point to honourable and well-conducted members of the aristocracy, and we can say the same respecting his treatment of the bourgeois. But for a good word for the doctors we may search his works in vain. Even in his conversations he cannot refrain from a thrust at them. “How do you get on with your own physician?” Louis one day asked Moliere. “Sir,” said he, “we have a talk together. He prescribes for me. I don’t take his prescription - and I get well.” In an unwonted fit of kindness Moliere writes to the King, asking a favour for the son of this same doctor, Mauvilain, and he writes as follows: “Sir, A very respectable physician, whose patient I have the honour to be, has not only promised, but has consented to register his promise before a Notary, that he will prolong my life for thirty years, if I obtain a favour from your Majesty. I told him that if he would promise simply to abstain from killing me, I would be perfectly content.” A sentiment which reminds us of Martial’s epigram:

“Diaule, the doctor, is a sexton made,
Though he is changed, he changeth not his trade.”

The date of this letter is February 5th, 1669, just four years before Moliere’s death.

[12]
This tone of ridicule, though carried to a higher pitch by Moliere than by anyone else, was very general. In fact Le Medecin Volant was little more than the adaptation to the French stage of an Italian farce. We may perhaps be able to arrive at the cause of such widespread public opinion, if we examine a little into the nature of the medical education which each member of the Faculty of Paris was obliged to undergo.

The origin of the Univerisity of Paris is lost in medieval obscurity. We know that in the twelfth century there existed in Paris, and had for an indefinite time existed, a teaching body, first culled Studium Parisiense, afterwards Universitas Parisiensis. By degrees the number of students became so considerable that it was found convenient to divide them into four nations, according to the countries whence they came: Honoranda Gallorum natio; fidelissima Picardorum natio; veneranda Normannorum natio; constantissima Germanorum natio. Towards the end of the twelfth century the division of the University of Paris into distinct Faculties took place: first in order Arts and Theology; later Law and Medicine. These Faculties formed independent societies, connected with the University as branches with the parent stem. The precise date of the union of the doctors into an independent corporation as the Faculty of Medicinc is not easy to fix accurately, but may be confidently assigned to the latter half of the thirteenth century, for it is known that about this period the Faculty had its own statutes, possessed a common seal, was the owner of property, and kept a record of its proceedings; though the earliest of these records still extant is not earlier than 1395.

[13]
That the majority of the earlier medieval physicians were ecclesiastics is a well-known fact. But it is not equally well-known that the obligation to abstain from matrimony was continued in the medical profession for many years after the decrees of various councils had pronounced the incompatibility of the practice of medicine with the ecclesiastical status. It was not till 1452 that a cardinal legate sent by Nicholas V. to reorganise the University of Paris, removed this restriction, and allowed the doctors to marry. The Cardinal d’Estouteville pronounced that the celibacy of doctors was an “impious and unreasonable affair.” About the same time the Faculty acquired a worthy habitation through the liberality of Desparts, the chief physician of Charles VII.

[14]
A good sound conservative institution was this old Faculty. “An undue respect for authority,” says Hallam, “made Hippocrates and Galen as much the idols of the medical world, as Augustin and Aristotle were of theology and metaphysics. This led to a pedantic erudition and contempt of opposite experience.” It would not be fair to assert that the Faculty was absolutely the enemy of all progress. But she stoutly refused to recognise any progress except what proceeded from herself. “The State! ’Tis I,” said Louis XIV. “Science! I am its incarnation,” said the medical Faculty. Every discovery originating elsewhere was an imposition; the alleged discoverer a charlatan and a quack. Thus the circulation of the blood was denounced because it came from England, the use of antimony prohibited because it came from Montpellier, and of quinine because it came from America.

The University of Paris had always been a favourite with the Kings of France, and the medical Faculty of course participated in the advantages derived from royal patronage. These consisted mainly of exemptions from the public burdens, an exemption which they shared with the aristocracy. When we read the long list of these in the edicts of privileges we may well shudder at the fate of the vulgar plebeians who were liable to such interminable tolls. The medical body does not appear ever to have received any direct subsidy from the Crown; freedom from taxation, and a few official compliments, were its sole claims to gratitude, notwithstanding several very broad hints that a pecuniary subsidy would be highly agreeable. Louis XI. once wished for a copy of a MS. belonging to the Faculty, and deputed an officer to ask for a loan of it. The MS. was lent, though not without much preliminary deliberation, but the King had to deposit twelve marks of silver as caution money, and they even made his Majesty procure a wealthy citizen of Paris to join him in the security. When the MS. was returned, the Faculty took the opportunity of assuring Louis that no doubts of his honesty, but their own extreme poverty, and the hardness of the times, were the causes of their apparent distrust. This was plainly an intimation that they would like to keep the twelve marks, but the hint did not avail, and the money was refunded. At a later period they actually lent money to the Crown: in 1636 Louis XIII. borrowed a thousand crowns from them.

[15]
It need hardly be said that the first qualification of a member of the Faculty was not medical knowledge but religious orthodoxy. A striking instance of this occurred as late as 1687. Gaston, Duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., was very anxious to get the son of his chief physician, a Protestant, admitted to the doctorate. But though he wrote a most flattering, even humble, letter to the Dean, signed “your good friend Gaston,” and though the King added a peremptory order to his brother’s recommendation, the Faculty successfully resisted the application. In fact, it was a statutable duty, obligatory on all the doctors, to assist at a solemn mass on St. Luke’s Day every year; after which the Statutes were read aloud. They were also bound, under penalty of a pecuniary fine, to attend at an annual service for the repose of the deceased physicians and benefactors of the Corporation, and also at the funeral of every member of the body. This rigorous orthodoxy appears to have gradually relaxed, for in 1648 four doctors, who belonged to the reformed religion, appear on the roll, and from this time until the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, both Catholic and Protestant doctors seem to have lived harmoniously together.

[16]
At the head of the Faculty was the Dean, the highest dignitary, the champion, the guardian and maintainer of their discipline and their statutes. To be elected Dean was the loftiest aspiration of the Parisian doctor, and the office was, with perhaps the exception of that of chief physician to the King, the highest medical post in the Kingdom. It was certainly no sinecure. Heading their processions, presiding at their meetings, and pronouncing official harangues, by no means exhausted his functions. Upon his devoted head fell all the blows directed against the Faculty by its numerous and acrimonious opponents. The oath administered to him when inducted into office bound him to the relentless prosecution of every infringement of the rights, or slight to the dignity of the body. His lawsuits were innumerable. There never was a Dean who had not several simultaneously on his shoulders. All this harassing work, usually in conjunction with an extensive private practice, formed no light burden. It was his business also to act as Registrar to the Corporation, and it was by his hand that the great volumes called Commentaires de la Faculte were compiled. These old registers, now in the Library of the Ecole de Medecine, form a perfect mine of curious documents. At the commencement of each deanery - that is every two years, the office being biennial - the record begins anew with a wealth of detail which must have involved no small expenditure of time and labour.

[17]
The mode of election to this important office was singular. I must premise that all the doctors of the Faculty, though enjoying the same privileges, and exercising the same functions, were, at the meetings of the body, divided into two sections, called respectively “the bench of the seniors,” and “the bench of the juniors,” the juniors passing to the seniors when they had completed the tenth year of their doctorate. Every second year, on the first Saturday after All Saints’ Day, all the doctors assembled after mass. The out-going Dean delivered an oration on the general affairs of the Faculty. This ended, the names of all the doctors present were thrown into two urns, one for the seniors and one for the juniors. Each urn was entrusted to the senior member of its bench. After the urns had been shaken, the Dean drew out three names from the seniors’, and two names from the junior’s urns. An oath was then administered to the five doctors thus taken by lot that they would elect the most worthy. Being in fact electors, they were not eligible themselves. The five then retired to the chapel, where they invoked the divine assistance to guide their choice, and elected by majority of votes three persons from the doctors present, who appeared to them most worthy to be the Dean, two of these from the seniors, and one from the juniors. These three names were again put into an urn, and handed to the out-going Dean: the name he drew out was the name of the new Dean. This election over, they proceeded to elect the professors, whose office was also biennial, in a nearly similar manner. The only difference was that in the final urn two of the three names were juniors instead of seniors, as in the election of the Dean. At first there were only two professors, the entire medical curriculum being divided into two great categories: 1, Anatomy and Physiology; 2, Pathology and Therapeutics. But there were two different classes of lectures given in each department: the first a sort of elementary course given by the Bachelors of Medicine, consisting entirely of the interpretation of the ancient authorities, according to a fixed programme, from which they were not permitted to diverge; the second delivered by the professor, completely free according to his discretion, subject only to the approval of the Dean. This second or higher course was delivered ex superiori cathedra, the great chair of the amphitheatre. The Bachelors lectured from a lower range of seats, so as to indicate the inferiority of their office.

[19]
In the course of the seventeenth century this somewhat meagre programme was recognised as dearly insufficient. How the professoriat came to be enlarged by a chair of Surgery we shall consider in connection with the great battle between the two branches of the profession which led to the memorable decree of the Parliament of Paris in 1660. A chair of Botany was added in 1645; and about the same time two professors of Pharmacy were appointed, one of whom was charged with the inspection of all apothecaries’ shops on the right bank of the Seine, the other with those on the left.

Such was the entire staff of the professors. Each professor at his election had to take an oath, the first clause of which deserves peculiar attention, as being eminently characteristic of the whole spirit of the Corporation. It was this: “I swear and solemnly promise to deliver my lectures in a long robe with large sleeves, with a square cap on my head, and with a scarlet hood on my shoulders.” This was the prime and chief obligation of the new professor. The next was one which we should perhaps think of higher importance, but which then ranked only as second: “I promise to deliver my lectures without interruption. I promise to deliver them myself, and not by a deputy, except in case of urgent and absolute necessity; and that each of them shall be of at least an hour’s duration; and that I shall lecture every day of the year, except on Church and University holidays.” There were, it may be observed, a good many of these.

[20]
It was to the theoretical education of the students that these highly satisfactory provisions referred. When we come to the practical department, that is to say anatomical and clinical instruction, we find indeed a very sad state of affairs. For it is a well recognised fact that the most gifted staff of anatomical lecturers in existence would meet with but scanty success in endeavouring to teach their science to a class of students who had no opportunities for a course of dissections; and at that time in Paris, as in England, the bodies of executed criminals were the only available subjects for the anatomist. Furthermore, it must be remembered that in Paris the doctors and surgeons not only formed two perfectly distinct and generally hostile corporations, but that the Dean of the medical Faculty was the sole legal owner of all such subjects for dissection, and that the surgeons therefore had absolutely no lawful means of studying anatomy. This state of things led to the occurrence of appalling scenes at executions. A pitched battle was usually the sequel to one. The Place de Greve would swarm with students come from surgeons, barbers, and physicians. Their ranks were recruited by the bargees, porters, butchers, and other members of the Paris mob, armed with bludgeons, knives and swords. Hardly was the breath out of the wretch’s body when the scaffold was carried by storm. A hideous game of football would be played through the streets, the goal being some surgeon’s shop, which when reached was instantly barricaded against the enemy. The medical Faculty as a rule sent their beadle formally to demand the body, but it need hardly be said that he met only with derision, if not worse treatment. To read of scenes so ghastly recalls the Merovingian period, but they were common in the streets of Paris in the seventeenth century.

[21]
Sometimes, though not often, it happened that the doctors and surgeons were at peace. At such times the body of a criminal was allowed to be brought to the Faculty, and the surgeons were then formally invited to the ceremony of “making an anatomy,” as they called it. But it is not to be supposed that the professor himself actually dissected. Manual work of all sorts was below the dignity of a professor; accordingly the barber-surgeon handled the scalpel, while the doctor harangued the audience. But an unhappy result soon became apparent: the humble barber began to know more than his master. On more than one occasion profound theories concerning the structure of the human body were manifested by these common tradesmen to be theories only. This intolerable impertinence on the part of a set of mere mechancics must be put down. It was easy to see how injuriously the estimation of the professor by the students would be affected when some elaborate explanation of a physiological fact by the existence of a specified organism was shown by one or those inferior persons to be wholly based on the peculiar strength of the professor’s imagination. Accordingly, we find a stringent decree added to the statutes: “Doctor non sinat dissectorem divagari, sed contineat in officio dissecandi.”

[22]
That these occasional and semi-theoretical demonstrations were quite insufficient for a sound anatomical training is of course obvious. But the provisions for any sort of clinical instruction were still more defective; in fact they were almost totally wanting, and Dr. Raynaud mentions the almost incredible circumstance that the majority of the students arrived at the baccalaureat without ever having attended at a single sick bed. The interminable disputations of the old schoolmen had left their traces on the medical profession, and the doctors seem to have forgotten that their business was to cure a given individual, and not to harangue at great length on the nature of his disease. There is no passage in Moliere where he has more distinctly touched this blot than a scene in L’Avare (1), a play which is not, however, one of his pitched battles with the profession. The heroine is recommended to feign sickness, but objects on the grounds that if medical advisers were called in her pretence would be detected, an apprehension which her lover laughs to scorn: “Vous moquez-vous? y connaissent-ils quelque chose? Allez, allez, vous pourrez avec eux avoir quel mal il vous plaira; ils vons trouveront des raisons pour vous dire d’ou cela vient.” (Act I, sc. 8; given in ftn.).

[23]
In fact, the mode of procedure in medical education was such that we might suppose medicine to be not a science at all, but merely a branch of literature. The second article of the statutes of the Faculty provides that: “All medical students shall attend frequently at the public argumentations and disputations.” Nearly all the scientific life of the period seems to have concentrated itself on these intellectual tournaments. To maintain his thesis with credit at these solemn assemblies, where often the highest personages of the aristocracy and magistracy were present, to crush an adversary by an apposite quotation from some infallible ancient - that was true glory, the ultimate object of the doctor’s ambition. Let us see how directly calculated to foster this most absurd and pernicious system were the examinations undergone by the aspirant to medical degrees. Ample details are given in the Eloge Historique of the Faculty delivered in 1770 by Dr. Hazon.

The examinations for the M.B. were held only once in every second year. The Faculty, however, reserved the right of holding supplemental examinations whenever they considered the supply of Bachelors insufficient. To qualify a candidate for admission to the examination, he must be twenty-five years of age, and have studied at least two years in the medical school. He must produce his diploma of Master of Arts, or of Philosophy, and a certificate that he had studied in the University for four years. These latter formalities were dispensed with in the case of sons of members of the Faculty. For obvious reasons the Corporation was jealous of the privileges of birth, and did not fail to find a precept of Hippocrates to justify the dispensation. Taking place, as a rule, in March, the examination lasted a week. In addition to the examiners specially appointed for the occasion, every doctor who chose might propose a certain number of questions to the candidates. The subjects of examination were the courses of the two years. At the end of the week the examiners made their report to the Faculty, who then proceeded, by vote, to decide on the admission or rejection of a candidate.

[24]
So far well and good: there is nothing to surprise us in the course of proceeding. The candidates were examined in what they had been taught. A good deal of that instruction we should now indeed consider supremely ridiculous, hut it was then considered of high importance. It was not until after the degree of M.B. had been obtained that a system of testing the candidates, so absurd as to be all but incredible, came into play. We have seen that it was usually in March that candidates obtained the M.B. They had to pass an examination in botany in May or June, that time being selected on account of the flowering of plants. They were then allowed the summer to prepare for what lay before them: and assuredly the time was short enough. In the oath administered to each Bachelor on his admission, after swearing that he would attend all the masses prescribed by the Faculty, that he would come in at least before the end of the Epistle, and remain until the end of the service, on pnin of being fined a crown, he was obliged further to declare that he would assist at all the exercises of the Academy, and at the disputations of the school during two years, and that he would sustain a thesis on a question of medicine and hygiene.

[25]
The theses which the candidates thus bound themselves to sustain were originally simple propositions, but in course of time had become widely expanded. They consisted invariably of five “articles,” and their method was that of unmixed scholasticism. Often they were elaborately transcribed and richly illuminated. We find that Thomas Diaphoirus in Le Malade Imaginaire [Moliere], just before offering to treat his fair fiancee to a dissection, “pour vous divertir,” presents her with his thesis against the circulation of the blood, which the servant Toinette accepts “pour l’image” to adorn her room.

The winter session of the medical school began in November, and was divided into two parts, Ash Wednesday being the point of section. Its earlier portion was occupied by what were called the theses quodlibetaires, that is to say selected on any subject whatever in physiology or medicine. The remainder was devoted to the theses du Cardinal, so called from their originator, Cardinal d’Estouteville, he who had freed the doctors from their obligation to celibacy. Questions of hygiene formed the main subjects of these latter theses. It was on Martinmas Day, November 11th, that the torture of the candidates commenced, designed to be ruthlessly long drawn out. For perhaps the most trying feature in these disputations was their unconscionable duration. In the case of the theses quodlibetaires, the hours were from six in the morning until noon: still worse in this respect were the theses du Cardinal, which began an hour earlier. Hence for seven mortal hours it was by statute the business of the unhappy candidate to have more learning and readier wits than the whole united Faculty; to be able to reply on the moment, and without leaving his place, to the keenest subtleties which those long-trained controversialists could devise; to guard against the chance word which might bring down upon his head a dozen adversaries, prepared to crush him on the spot.

[26]
One custom must have been peculiarly exasperating to the distracted candidate. In a room adjoining the amphitheatre was to be found a table, at which the period’s equivalents of our more modern wines, liqueurs, and “minerals” were lavishly supplied for the refreshment of the tormentors at the victim’s expense. Bitter no doubt were his feelings as he saw the doctors one by one slipping into this apartment to recruit their energies for his own destruction, and with his own liquor. It is highly probable that other causes than mere zeal in behalf of the questions under discussion occasionally imported heat into these disputations. But though the doctors thus refreshed themselves in relays, there was no respite for the candidate. While some were drinking, others would be hard at work assailing him, and for hour after hour the contest raged, “with hearts of controversy,” nor was there a moment’s pause until the twelve strokes of the great clock from its tower brought the searching ordeal to a close.

[27]
This harassing performance, as a general rule, took place once a week throughout the whole session. It would be hard to conceive any process of training more directly calculated to foster in the minds of those future doctors the dangerous delusion that their business was not so much to cure their patients as to be able to discourse fluently and pedantically, if not learnedly, on the nature of disease. Nor could any system have well been more aptly devised for the stereotyping, in rigid immobility, of an art essentially progressive. Cut off from experimental knowledge, its study reduced to a series of word-splitting disputations, medicine ceased to develop, while its professors, as dogmatic expounders of doctrine, constituted themselves a final court of appeal,

“And stood aloof from other minds
In impotence of fancied power.”

[28]
As for the questions which were proposed for discussion, and which may still be read in the Commentaires de la Faculte, many of them were sensible enough, but some were of a grotesque absurdity. For example: -

“Is it beneficial to the constitution to get drunk once a month?”
“Is the female an imperfect work of nature?”
“Is sneezing a natural act?”
“Should we take into consideration the phases of the moon when our hair wants cutting?”
To say nothing of mere verbal quibbles, one of which may be quoted as it displays in its wording some ingenuity: -
“An modicus cibi, medicus sibi?”

Two years were spent in these futile exercises, but it is not to be supposed that they absorbed the entire time of the candidates. Some faint attempts were made to supply that utter want of clinical teaching which, as we have seen, was a leading feature in the education of the Bachelor. It was usual, though by no means obligatory, for the Bachelors during these two years to attend the visits of the physicians at the Hotel Dieu. But this was done wholly at the discretion of the candidate, with no fixed method, without guidance, and accordingly with little practical benefit. A considerable improvement on this system took place in 1644, when an institution in mnny respects analogous to our dispensaries was in a very strange manner established in Paris. Six doctors prescribed for extern patients in turn, every Wednesday and Saturday: they held consultations in all the more difficult cases, and it became usual for the Bachelors to be present at such consultations, and to take notes. This, though better than nothing, was still very imperfect, and of course superficial, as those sick persons only who were able to go out could attend, and the practice was therefore confined to cases of comparatively small importance. There was also a complete absence of the peculiar benefit to be derived from watching day after day the same case, and tracing in it the progress of disease and convalescence.

[29]
During these two years of the medical student’s career as a Bachelor he was technically said to be “winning his Licence”; for the medical degrees were three in number - Bachelor, Licentiate, Doctor. Of these three the Licentiate was, in practice, by far the most important. The Bachelor was only a student; he had no right to practise, and might easily be degraded from his rank. The Doctorat was, on the other hand, little more than a matter of form, once the Licence had been obtained. It was for the Licence that all the formidable quodlibet and cardinal disputations were instituted as a part of the training; and it cannot be doubted that after two years of this severe training the Faculty must have altogether satisfied themselves as to the capacity and the theoretical acquirements of the candidate for the Licence. But a much more important and more difficult question remained behind. It had still to be ascertained whether, in addition to mere book-learning, the aspirant Licentiate had succeeded in acquiring any practical knowledge of disease, and whether he possessed that sound common sense, the want of which no training can supply. The method adopted by the old Faculty for testing the presence or absence of these indispensable qualifications appears to be worthy of some notice; for such qualifications can only be judged of in actual exercise, and it is extremely difficult to frame an examination so as to bring them out when present, and when not present to exhibit their absence.

[30]
The candidates accordingly were obliged to appear before a convened meeting of the Faculty, as two years previously they had appeared to supplicate for permission to be examined. But what they now supplicated was admission to the so-called private examination. It was at this crisis in the student’s career that a process took place of sifting the good from the bad, the student who seemed likely, either from independence of character or any other cause, to be a troublesome member of the body, from those who promised to be more tractable. Admission to this examination was sternly refused to all whose antecedents were in any way open to suspicion. Should it come to the ears of the Faculty that the candidate had ever practised surgery, “or any other mechanical art,” he was obliged not only to swear, but to go before a notary and bind himself by all the forms of law, to abstain from such practices for all time to come. “For,” adds the statute, “the dignity of the medical corporation must be carefully preserved in all its integrity and in all its purity.”

[31]
Permission for examination having been obtained, each candidate visited in succession, and alone, the private residence of each doctor of the Faculty. There tete-a-tete in the quietness of the study, far from all the pomp and turmoil of the University’s public examinations, in which the impudence or modesty of the candidate exercised no inappreciable influence on the final result, this practical examination was conducted. Not limited by time, or by any prescribed course of study, each examiner could, at his own convenience, interrogate the candidate on the thousand points of detail which no book can furnish, and which afford an easy method of discriminating between real, practical knowledge and a rapid and judicious cram. He could if he chose bring the examinee to the bedside of a patient, and ask him, “What would you do here?” Such an examination as this, conducted by each doctor separately for each candidate, necessarily took up a considerable time. As soon as it was completed, the Faculty, convened again by the Dean, decided by ballot the admission or rejection of the Bachelors. Those whose names issued triumpant trom the urn were called Licentiandy - they were not yet Licentiates - but the remainder or the process was formal merely, part of the ceremonial being curious enough.

[32]
The successful candidates marched in procession to the residence of the Chancellor of the University, the Dean presented them, and the Chancellor fixed a day for conferring the Licence. This great dignitary was always an ecclesiastic; that he should be so was one of the most ancient and most cherished traditions of the University. Gallican in principle though it was, the papal authority was sometimes found very convenient when disputes arose with the Parliament of Paris. In the interval before the day appointed, the Licentiandi marched again in procession to call upon the members of the Parliament and the other sovran Courts, the ministers of State, the Mayor and the Sheriffs, requesting of all these high officials that they would be pleased to attend the Schools on the appointed day, “in order to hear the names and titles of the new physicians whom the Faculty were about to bestow on the world.” In response to this invitation, the form of which would now be considered singular, many of the dignitaries called upon did always appear at the appointed time, when a very strange symbolical ceremony took place. As the Doge of Venice used mystically to espouse the Adriatic, so in like manner a symbolical wedding was supposed to be celebrated, with the medical Faculty for the venerable bride, and the Licentiandi, admitting a system of polyandry, for the bridegrooms, while the Dean acted as paranymfos, presenting them all to the Chancellor.

[33]
The final ceremony was performed in the great hall of the Archbishop’s palace. Elaborate preparations had been made; a preliminary meeting of the doctors who had taken part in conducting the disputations and examinations was held in the morning at the early hour of five o’clock, to determine the order of merit of the candidates. This order of reception at the Licence was the main source of the spirit of emulation among the candidates. To obtain the first place was the highest object of a young man’s ambition, and success was usually the commencement of a brilliant career. The vote which arranged the order on the list was regarded as one of peculiar moment, and exceptional precautions were taken to secure the most rigid impartiality. No doctor was allowed to take part who could not show that he had been present at more than half of the disputations, and a special oath was administered by the Chancellor himself to each voter “that he would be in no way influenced by favour, and would take into account merit alone.” The order of merit was determined by a comparison of the different lists which were thrown into the ballotting urn. At ten o’clock the doors were thrown open, and the list, thus prepared, was read with a loud voice. All the candidates fell on their knees, and the Chancellor pronounced the words: “Auctoritate sanctae sedis apostolicae, qua fungor in hac parte, do tibi licentiam legendi, interpretandi, et faciendi medicinam, hic et ubique terrarum, in nomine Patris et Filii et spiritus sancti.” The words et ubique terrarum raised up, as we shall see, a host of enemies to the Faculty of Paris.

[34]
This done, the Chancellor proposed a question to be discussed by the fortunate Licentiate who had obtained the first place. These questions being mainly formal, and proposed for discussion in a mixed assembly, usually combined theology or literature with medicine. Dr. Hazon gives several, two of which are as follow. In 1668: “Utrum Tobiae ex piscis felle curatio naturalis?” In 1670: “An qui mel et butyrum comedit sciat reprobare malum et eligere bonum?” On which the historian Raynaud (1) remarks: “Might not we suppose ourselves at Byzantium on the eve of the Turkish conquest, rather than at Paris in the reign of Louis XIV.?”


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