Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of A Dissertation on the Importance of Physical Sings in the Various Diseases of the Abdomen and Thorax,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IX: Literary Criticism - part 02 (1902), 9:164-166


[page 164, continued:]


[Southern Literary Messenger, October, 1836.]

THE Boylston Medical Committee of Harvard University, having propounded the question, “How far are the external means of exploring the condition of the internal organs useful and important,[[?”]] a gold medal was, in consequence, awarded to this Dissertation on the subject, by our townsman Dr. Haxall. Notwithstanding the modesty of his motto, “Je n’enseigne pas, Je raconte,” he has here given evidence, not to be misunderstood, of a far wider range of study, of experience, of theoretical and practical knowledge, than that attained, except in rare cases, by our medical men. He has evinced too more than ordinary powers of analysis, and his Essay will command (oh, rare occurrence in the generality of similar Essays!) the entire respect of every well-educated man, as a literary composition in its own peculiar character nearly faultless.

The Dissertation does not respond, in the fullest extent, to the category proposed. The only available method of discussing the question, “How far are the [page 165:] external means of exploring the condition of the internal organs useful and important?” is to show, as far as possible, the deficiencies of other means — to point out the inconvenience and want of certainty attending a diagnosis deduced from symptoms merely general or functional, and to demonstrate the advantages, if any, of those signs (afforded by external examination) which, in medical language, are alone denominated physical. But to do all this would require a much larger treatise than the Committee had in contemplation, and so far, it appears to us, they have been over-hasty in proposing a query so illimitable. Our author (probably thinking thus) has wisely confined himself to diseases occurring in the common routine of practice, and here again only to such as affect the cavities of the Abdomen and Thorax. The brain is not treated of — for, except in a few strictly surgical instances, the unyielding parietes of the skull will admit of no diagnosis deduced from their examination.

In the discussion of the subject thus narrowed, Dr. Haxall has commented upon the physical signs which (assisted as they always are by functional symptoms) lead to the detection of the diseases of the liver, the spleen, the uterus, the ovary, the kidney, the bladder, the stomach, and the intestines — of Typhoid or Typhus Fever — of Inflammation of the Peritonoaeum — of Pleura, Pleura-pneumonia, Hydrothorax, Pneumothorax, Catarrh, Emphysema, Asthma, Dilatation of the Bronchiae, Pneumonia, Pulmonary Apoplexy, and Phthisis, — of Pericarditis, Hypertrophy of the Heart, Dilatation of that organ, and lastly, of Aneurism of the Aorta.

The most important and altogether the most original portion of the Essay, is that relating to the fever called Typhoid. [page 166:]

The pathology of fever in general has been at all times a fruitful subject of discussion. Solidists, humorists, and advocates of the idiopathic doctrine, have each their disciples among the medical profession. Dr. H. advocates no theory in especial, but in regard to typhus fever agrees with M. Louis in supposing the true lesion of the disease to reside in an organic alteration of the glands of Peyer. He denies consequently that bilious fever, pneumonia, dysentery, or indeed any other malady, assumes, at any stage, what can be properly called a “typhoid” character, unless the word “typhoid” be regarded as expressive of mere debility. The chief diagnostic signs he maintains to be physical, but enters into a minute account of all the symptoms of the disorder. The Essay is embraced in a pamphlet, beautifully printed, of 108 pages.





[S:1 - JAH09, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of A Dissertation on the Importance of Physical Sings in the Various Diseases of the Abdomen and Thorax)