Cornhill Magazine,  6 (1862), 433–70.

Romola Ch. 15–20  [4/14]

[George Eliot]


Novel, Serial


Quackery, Medical Practitioners, Boundary Formation, Surgery, Status, Astrology, Ancient Authorities

    Nello the barber denigrates Maestro Tacco, a pompous 'doctor from Padua', as a 'toad-faced quack fingering quattrini, or bagging a pigeon in exchange for his pills and powders'. Nello insists that Tacco 'vends his own secret medicines, so he keeps away from the doors of the speziali (druggists)', and has made the piazza into 'a resort for asthmas and squalling bambini'. (445) While being shaved, Tacco is insulted by Nello's facetious suggestion that 'It is fitting that a great medicus like you [...] should be shaved by the same razor that has shaved the illustrious Antonio Benivieni, the greatest master of the chirurgic art'. He replies indignantly, 'The chirurgic art! [...] Is it your Florentine fashion to put the masters of the science of medicine on a level with men who do carpentry on broken limbs, and sew up wounds like tailors, and carve away excresences as a butcher trims meat. Via! A manual art, such as any artificer might learn, and which has been practised by simple barbers like yourself—on a level with the noble science of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna, which penetrates into the occult influences of the stars, and plants and gems!—a science locked up from the vulgar!' (446–47). To this Nello responds hypocritically, 'I never thought of placing them on a level: I know your science comes next to the miracles of the Holy Church for mystery. But there, you see, is the pity of it [...] your high science is sealed from the profane and the vulgar, and you become an object of envy and slander' (447).


Eliot 1863

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