Punch,  47 (1864), 54.

The Army-Surgeon Famine. An Intercepted Letter



Letter, Spoof


Medical Practitioners, Medical Treatment, Surgery, Education, Charlatanry, War, Amateurism, Professionalization, Class, Commerce

    This spoof letter is headed 'To Earl de Grey and Ripon', apparently a conflation of the names of former Secretary of State for War, Henry G Grey (3rd Earl Grey), and current Secretary of State for War, George F S Robinson (1st Marquess of Ripon); the salutation is 'My dear De Grey', and the letter is signed 'George', and addressed from 'Horse Guards'. It urges that 'Something must be done to provide the Army with competent Surgeons', noting that the terms and payment offered by the army are not good enough for 'men of education'. Draws attention to the problems of raising army surgeons' pay and recognising their 'social standing', notably the fact that other officers regard them as 'intermediate between gentlemen and tailors'. Suggests that a solution to the problem is to revise the standard of qualification needed to become an army surgeon, in the belief that army surgery requires no more skill than that possessed by a butcher or cabinet-maker, and should not depend on proficiency in Latin. Similarly, noting the disagreements between doctors, thinks 'what they call medical science is all humbug' and believes that 'any druggist's apprentice' could undertake the duties of an army medical officer. Questions why an army medical officer should be catechised 'in botany and chemistry and philosophy' and insists that he be examined 'in his own business'. Concludes by pointing out that if 'illiterate snobs' are accepted as army surgeons, they will be 'satisfied with moderate pay' and will not want to associate with 'officers and gentlemen'.

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