P.S.-When I say that Homoeopathy does not claim to cure the incurable, that leaves the question of curability an open one; Homoeopathy does not accept anything as incurable because certain physicians who are “regular” declare it to be so. Incapacity to cure does not render the uncured incurable. Kindly take a mental note of this, because what you “regulars” consider incurable may, or may hot, be so considered by the homoeopaths. My old pleuritis trouble was declared and proved to be incurable by and for the entire faculty, and yet the Bryonia alba of the homoeopaths cured it!


You “do not believe that Arnica is any good for injuries and, moreover, it is a poisonous drug, causing very dangerous, or, at least, very severe, erysipelas”. I have nothing to do with your beliefs: clinical facts are what I am concerned with. I cured an old case of aphonia with Arnica, and an account of that I have sent you as my thirteenth reason for being an homoeopath. Whether you believe in the anti-traumatic virtues of Arnica or not is your affair : I fearlessly affirm that your scepsis would not have cured it, anyhow.

Further, I did not deny that Arnica causes very severe and even dangerous erysipelas. Indeed, I know it well, and have seen it, and out of your own mouth will I take my fourteenth reason for being a homoeopath.


Some years since an eminent member of the Society of Friends wrote to me, stating that he had for a number of years been suffering from erysipelas of the face at odd intervals. I ordered him Arnica in a rather high dilution and in infrequent dose, and thereupon his erysipelas faded and came no more. Long afterwards he wrote me a very grateful letter, giving me much undue praise for having wit enough to see that the almighty has His laws in therapeutics for the guidance of His poor, sick children.

I have it from you that Arnica causes erysipelas; I will not doubt your statement; you may now take it from me that Arnica cures erysipelas, and this I offer you as my fourteenth reason for being a homoeopath. You know the bad character of Arnica in that it is apt to cause erysipelas; I tell you of its good fame, viz. that it possesses the power of curing erysipelas, and the intellectual link that completes the little chain is the law of likes that God put into the mind of one Samuel to explain to the world.


You need not be so angry at my last reason; I did not make Arnica grow in the world; I did not endow it with the power of causing erysipelas; and I did not discover the therapeutic law in question; I just use this law in order to cure my patients, even as I use the useful invention known as a spoon wherewith to partake of my broth. With me it is merely a means to an end; there is no hocus-pocus about it.

Just as I was writing you my last reason for being a homoeopath, I was suddenly summoned by telegraph to a very severe case of quinsy. I hastened to the suffering damsel, and found that various remedies had been used in vain, and the patient was in great distress, having been for twelve hours unable to swallow even a few drops of fluid. Not even the juice of one grape would pass, and some operative interference seemed absolutely imperative. I gave five grains of the third centesimal trituration of a remedy you may not be acquainted with, but which the heterodox homoeopaths quaintly call Baryta carbonica, and which is now generally known as the Carbonate of Barium, In about a dozen hours patient ate a basin of basin of bread and milk. I have often cured quinsies before in the same way and I beg you to believe that the little trick has been done thousands of times by others, and though no clinical tip of mine, it nevertheless must serve you as my fifteenth reason-and not a bad one either, as said damsel would gratefully bear witness.


You remember my case of hiccough cured by Natrum muriaticum? Well, while my mind is still dwelling on this very wonderful remedy, I will adduce another cure by it as my sixteenth reason for being a homoeopath. In it you may again note the expansiveness of the conception of similitudes, for this case grew out of the hiccough case :

John H., aged 29, seaman, came to me on April 21st, 1878, telling me that he had fever and ague two or three times a day, with watery vomiting, in Calcutta, in September, 1877. Was in the Calcutta Hospital three weeks for it, and took emetics, quinine, and tonic. Left at the end of the three weeks cured; but before he was out of port the ague returned, or he got another, and he had a five-month voyage home to the port of Liverpool. During the first three months of this homeward voyage he had two, three, four and five attacks a week, and took a good deal of a power from the captain, which, from his description, was probably Cinchona bark; then the fever left him, and the following conditions supervened, viz: “Pain in right side under the ribs; cannot lie on right side; both calves very painful to touch, they are hard and stiff; left leg semiflexed, he cannot stretch it.” In this condition he was two months at sea and two weeks ashore; and in this condition be comes to me hobbling with the aid of a stick, and in great pain from the moving.

Urine muddy and red; bowels regular; skin tawny; conjunctivae yellow.

Drinks about three pints of beer daily. I recommended him not to alter his mode of life till he is cured, and then to drink less beer. The former part of the recommendation he followed, as I learned from his brother; of the latter part I have no information.

The hiccough case bears directly on this one, as we have evidently to do with an ague suppressed with Cinchona. Therefore ordered Nat. mur., 6 trit, six grains in water every four hours.

April 27th.-Pain in side and leg went away entirely in three days, and the water cleared at once; but the pain returned on the fourth day in the left calf only, which to day is red, painful, swelled, and pits. He walks without a stick.

Continue medicine.

May 4th.-Almost well; feels only a very little pain in left calf when walking. Looks and feels quite well, and walked into room with perfect ease without any stick.

He thinks he had a cold shake a few nights ago, He continues to perspire every night; ever since he got the ague the sheets have to be changed every night.

Continue medicine.

May 11th.-Quite well.

I will here urge you to make a profound study of salt in all its bearings; but its being such a grand calorifacient in refracted dose, and during this deadlock of ague and cinchona, will surely entitle it to be considered a very good reason for being a homoeopath, since it cannot be so used on any other than homoeopathic ground.


Not many years ago the daughter of a London alderman was suffering from fearful neuralgia of the face; at intervals she had had it for years, and no trouble or expense had been spared in endeavouring to cure it. Their ordinary family adviser was a homoeopath, but he had not managed to cure this neuralgia, notwithstanding several consultations with colleagues; and other men of eminence had been consulted, but to no avail.

I found that the pain was worse in cold weather; worse at the seaside; better away from the sea-inland, i.e. not so frequent or severe, and when the pain came on the eyes watered. A pinch of the sixth trituration of Natrum muriaticum in water three times a day cured my young patient in about three weeks; and this anti-neuralgic action of Nat mur, must be my seventeenth reason for being a homoeopath.


You ask how it then is that with all the merits which I claim for Homoeopathy, its practitioners should be in “such a contemptible minority in the profession”? I presume, being in the minority does not necessarily mean to be in the wrong.

I suppose your hold that the world moves? There was a time when those who said so were in the the minority, and not very far from the stake if they dared to aver their belief!

You personally, have devoted a good deal of attention to “diseases of the organs of circulation”, and you plume yourself rather (so I gathered in conversation with you) on knowing just a little more than most people on the “forces that carry on the circulation of the blood”-eh? Was not, once upon a time, the nickname “circulator”- one who believed in Harvey’s discovery-a very opprobrious epithet indeed in our “liberal profession”? quite as bad as “homoeopath” not; and did I one day not hear a great orator bring down the house by exclaiming “They are slaves who dare not be in the right with two or three”? Your “minority” argument is worn out.

Well I wrote you the last time but one about the calorifacient power of Natrum muriaticum, and you would like to know whether it acts upon a certain centre. I do not know its seat of action exactly, but I do know that it can often make a cold, chilly person feel warm; and that is no small thing.

Some years since I was attending one of the children of a widow in the neighborhood of London, and having made a pretty good therapeutic hit-homoeopathically, my friend- she said she should like to consult me on her own account for her nerves; and when we had gone into that matter, she said, “Ah, I suppose it is no use to consult you about my cold shivering fits; no one can do them any good.” They were in this wise, on going to bed at night she began to shudder and shiver, and on getting into bed and lying down, she would shiver to such a degree that her teeth chattered, and the movements of her body shook the bed.

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.