Wives and Daughters. An Every-Day Story Ch. 1–3 [1/17]
[Elizabeth C Gaskell]
Medical Practitioners, Skill, Status, Feeling, Health
When Mr. Hall, long-established as the most 'skilful doctor' in Hollingford, begins to suffer from rheumatic gout, he attempts to find a new partner, despite the admonitions of his numerous patients, by 'advertising in medical journals, reading testimonials, [and] sifting character and qualifications' (148). He appoints Mr. Gibson, and the younger man soon establishes himself as the more favoured practitioner, especially with aristocratic patients. In fact, the 'respect shown for his professional skill' becomes 'a little too much for even the kind old doctor's good temper—Mr. Gibson had even been invited once to dinner at the Towers, to dine with the great Sir Astley, the head of the profession!'. (149) Gibson himself, whose 'slight Scotch accent' and dark French looks denote his acquaintance with Edinburgh and Paris, the leading centres of advanced medicine at the time the novel is set (149), soon finds the 'pairs of young men' who come to him for 'professional instruction' a constant 'incubus', but 'his reputation as a clever surgeon had spread so rapidly that his fees which he thought prohibitory, were willingly paid, in order that young men might make a start in life, with the prestige of having been a pupil of Gibson of Hollingford' (151). Gibson, whose first wife has died young, maintains 'rather a contempt for demonstrative people, arising from his medical insight into the consequences to health of uncontrolled feeling' (150–01).
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