James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell was an American poet of the Romantic Movement, and is counted among the Fireside Poets. In this letter dated June 1, 1891, Lowell discusses gout with an acquaintance called Judge Hoar. Lowell references the scholar Robert Burton, and discusses his own sickness before signing off.
1st June, 1891
I missed you & marveled & am grieved to hear that you had so painful a reason for not coming. I trust you are more than convalescent by this time, & there is nothing pleasanter to look back upon than the gout – unless it be a prison. Even in the very phrenzy of its attack even I have found topics of consolatory reflection. Is it podagra? I think how much better off I am than the poor centipedes must be. Is it chiragra? I imagine Briareus roaring.
Judge Hoar. I call my gout
the unearned increment from my good grandfather’s Madeira & think how excellent it must have been & sip it cool from the bin of fancy, & wish he had left me the cause instead of the effect. I dare say he would, had he known I was coming & was to be so unreasonable.
My neighbor Mr. Warner came in last evening & tells me the doctor’s presume it to be inflammatory rheumatism. But from his account of it I am sure it was acute gout. Experto Crede Roberto, as our old friend Democritus Junior used to say. Three more than intolerable days & then a gradual relaxation of the vise, one turn at a time, but each a foretaste of Elysium – that’s gout & nothing else. Our doctors don’t
know gout. Dr. Wynean told me he had never seen a case till he saw mine, & yesterday a old doctor from Boston whom he had called in consultation over me, said that he had never met with a case. That seems to me an odd bit of statistics, for in my youth nearly all respectable old gentlemen had it. Don’t think because I have had a consultation over me that I am worse. I have, to be sure, been very weak lately & scant o’ breath, but for a day or two I have felt lighter in the spirit & in the flesh too.
Sleeplessness has been my bother owing to a nervous cough which lies in ambush till I go to bed & then barriers me without ceasing. The mere bodily weariness of it is such that I get up more tired than I went to bed. I am now fighting it with opium,
& if I can once break up its automatic action/for such it has become/ I shall begin to gain at once, I think. Then perhaps I shall be able to get up to Concord which would do me good in more ways than one.
Day before yesterday I should not have had vital energy enough to write all this, nor resolution enough to write even a notelet, for which I thank God, though perhaps you mayn’t. Convalescence is an admirable time for brooding over [mars'] nest & I hope you may hatch an egg or two! Several handsome chicks of whimsy have chipped the shell under me.
Goodbye & God bless you! Make the first use of your feet in coming to see me.