History of the RSM
Feature of the month - October
My Dear Doctor,
Thirteen months ago, when it seemed likely that this story had come to a close, a kind friend brought you to my bedside, whence, in all
probability, I never should have risen but for your constant watchfulness
and skill. I like to recall your great goodness and kindness (as well as many acts of others, showing quite a surprising friendship and sympathy) at that time, when kindness and friendship were most needed and welcome. And as you would take no other fee but thanks, let me record them here in behalf of me and mine, and subscribe myself,
Yours most sincerely and gratefully,
W. M. THACKERAY.
So reads William Makepeace Thackeray’s dedication in his novel The History of Pendennis, published in 1850, to John Elliotson (1791 – 1868) who served as President of the Medical and Chirurgical Society from 1833 to 1835, and was President of the Society when, in 1834, it gained its Royal Charter to become the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.
Elliotson was Professor of Medicine at University College, London, and pioneered the use of Mesmerism in clinical practice; his advocacy of this technique proved so controversial as to cause his eventual resignation from the hospital in 1838.
Earlier literary testimony was paid to Elliotson in 1844 in John Overs’ book Evenings of a Working Man. Overs was a carpenter who had contracted tuberculosis for which he had received treatment from Elliotson free of charge.
Encouraged by Charles Dickens, who recognised his talent for writing, and who provided the book’s introduction and preface, Overs dedicated his book in gratitude to Elliotson.
Elliotson was a close friend of Dickens and taught him the technique of Mesmerism, of which Dickens became a skilled exponent practising on family and friends.