CONFIDENTIAL NOTES ON THE LIFE OF MADAME HAHNEMANN. ( Written by Melanie Hahnemann in 1846, in defence against an accusation of practising homoeopathy without the right of doing so) (Translated from the original French.).
Had I not been forced by imperative circumstances I should never have written this, although these details may be interesting in themselves apart from medical science. Having uninterruptedly devoted my whole life to good works it is painful to be obliged to speak of them. Good deeds done in secret are such a treasure to a heart which has the right to be proud of them, that neither the praise of the world, nor the glory, otherwise so agreeable, resulting from the knowledge of these good deeds, can compensate for the loss of that secret enjoyment. This applies all the more to woman who by the law of exclusion, which man instituted against her, constantly finds opposition, which makes it impossible for her to give expression to her intellectual capacities. But, when she possesses these in supper abundance, to an overflowing measure, especially if morally pure, she becomes all the more an object of jealousy and aversion to men, as well as to the every-day type of woman. The women whom men find it in their own interest to deceive on this point have been trained to it and misunderstand the esprit de corps and the dignity of their own sex. In other words they arouse the envy of all, and the censure of men who persecute them if they can, as is apparent in this case, until the greatness of their talents, or their virtue forces them to be silent on the subject of their obvious superiority which they take great care not to display although inwardly they clearly recognise it.
Smart women who are gifted, at times find favour with men because they have become their toys, and men are fond of that which they own; even when these have become faithless, when they have committed adultery, men try to defend them, or pretend not to see. I say, at times because whilst extending an interested protection, man never allows woman to overstep the barrier that his tyrannical spirit has erected in the intellectual field into which he was powerless to prevent her entering. Women do not need man’s permission to become musicians painters, poets, writers, mathematicians, astronomers, or scientists, but man has arrogated to himself the right to forbid them the practice of certain liberal professions, in which they might even excel, occasionally.
This subject would bear amplification, but it is not our intention to speak of it here. We are not dealing here with woman, but with Madame Hahnemann, the physicians who cures, and to prove that she was obliged to act in the way she did.
My father’s name is d’ Hervilly’ he is man of great knowledge and intelligence who loves me dearly. His gentleness and kindness are indescribable. He was my first tutor, and his first teachings were more like endearments than lessons. The purest reason and the soundest philosophy formed the basis of his precepts which he formulated in a simple manner, graduating them in accordance with my young intelligence. From childhood onwards he taught me to seek for the truth of things by pointing out to me their fallacies.
I was born with an extraordinary character which manifested itself in early childhood; I never played but was always thinking and, therefore, appeared sad without actually feeling so. Thence forth the ordinary life was insufficient for my mind, which found in its own contemplation a much greater enjoyment than in games and pleasures. I was happiest when I could withdraw into a secluded corner of the house, or into the country, and give myself up to all those uncoordinated thoughts which then passed through my mind like the rosettes of a kaleidoscope without troubling about the outside world. And if at times I felt the need of self-expression I would record my sensations in formless verses on the beauty of nature, which I already adored, and through improvised melodies to the modulations of which my mother’s friend were won’t to listen with astonishment. I did not wish to learn to read because the alphabet bored me, and distracted me from my dear thoughts; all this took place before I was eight years old. However, I then learned to read in a few hours through a happy idea of my father’s who being distressed by my ignorance made me a present of “A Thousand and One Nights,” and read one of the tales to me, and when he saw my joy and curiosity, he said, “all these volumes are full of equality interesting tales, here they are learn, to read and you will know them.” The next morning I could spell, and three days later I could read fluently; from that time onwards mountains of books could no longer satisfy my burning desire for knowledge; I despised children’s books; I was given more solid intellectual food, and my father charmed at the predispositions which revealed themselves in me, gave me an excellent education. The love of art joined that of science; I became a very good musician; I studied painting in which I made rapid progress in a very short time.
My mother, whose memory is sacred to me, had received such scanty education as is given in convents; she was very distressed because they were unable to teach me to sew, and she would often say to my father, “it is fortunate that our daughter is not a boy, we should never be able to do anything with him; she does not wish to learn to knit.” This is a sample of her deductions which were all equally logical! My mother was a very beautiful woman, but as her intelligence had not been developed she had remained commonplace, as is usually the case.
She had married very young. At nine or ten years of age I was already tall, and the growing daughter became the sundial marking the hour of her mother’s charms, which the latter treasured very much. The great love she had felt for the infant child cooled gradually, and I became an encumbrance to her desire to attract; I was thus always the objective of her bad temper in matters concerning which I was absolutely innocent. She tyrannised over me more and more most unjustly, for at that time I was extremely gentle and loving. I adored my mother and tried incessantly to please her but was always repulsed. Meanwhile the child was growing into girlhood, the comeliness of youth was developing in a body which had been fairly well equipped by nature. I had noticed the jealousy with which I inspired her, and therefore, partly from inclination and partly from logical reasoning, I dressed very simply, and contented myself with scrupulous cleanliness without adornment, in order not to arouse her jealousy or to appear frivolous.
All my efforts to appease my mother were useless; she would take me to dances against my wish because I was invited and she did not dare to refuse, but the next morning she would punish me for the success I had achieved, being a very good dancer; briefly, she conceived such animosity against me that it almost amounted to insanity. My good and sensible but weak father had allowed her to dominate the family life completely, and he moaned over the absurdities of his wife without being able to bring her to a better point of reasoning. His remonstrances, his entreaties only irritated her all the more; her passion knew no limit; eventually matters came to such a pitch that fearing for my life, he resolved to remove his beloved child from such torment. He had watched with joy the development of my leanings towards art through a series of rather remarkable paintings. Madame le Thiere who knew of my domestic troubles and was sorry for me, asked my father to entrust me to her care. She took me as a boarder and became my adoptive mother. Guillion le Thiere, painter of the picture, “The Sons of Brutus, “had taught me the first principles of painting. Once under the protection of my new adoptive family I became as happy as possible being separated from my own people. My father remained for me what he had always been, and his love compensated me for the sorrow of being exiled.
My mother had hurt all my feelings; the thought of being entirely dependent upon her as she was the ruler in the house, became to my sensitive mind an unbearable torment. I felt a strong inward impulsive to become something, and conceived the idea of earning my own living by my work. I became a painter. My friends sold my paintings, which were very much in demand, for large sums and while my mother kept a very large house in Paris, I was working in order to secure my own independence. I was very successful and gained medals in the exhibitions, which King Charles X presented to me himself.
I worked with pleasure, and the fruits of my talent soon became considerable; I was much in demand, and my other social talents enabled me to achieve success everywhere. Illustrious friends surrounded and protected me. I will only name a few; La Fayette; the Abbe Gregoire; the Consul Masclet; the Marshal Gouvion St. Cyr; Nepomucene Lemercier, author of Agamemnon; Persier, who revised architecture; Fontaine, also an architect, whom Napoleon and Louis Philippe honoured with their special friendship; the Princess of salm Dick, a poetess; Andrieux, also a poet, who wished to teach me literature which he professed so admirably, and whose voluminous and interesting correspondence are proofs of his esteem and friendship; and lastly Gohier, the last President of the French Republic, who left me his name in his will, with the entreaty to add it to mine, which can be proved from the enclosed document. The serious nature of my character made me seek always the company of superior men who were almost all friends of my father, and who encouraged the studious young girl. Besides, from my earliest childhood I had always sought all that was morally beautiful, which I held to be of much higher value than talents, and which I always tried to cultivate.
I was always learning and trying to enlarge my circle of knowledge, for knowledge is power. There are individuals born with a vocation. Valdajon, first surgeon to King Louis XVI was a cobbler. His instinct made him a bonesetter. He left his native village with his wife and three children in order to come to Paris, in the hope that the old shoes of that city might prove more remunerative than those of his village. In his booth he was continually setting bones. He set so many joints that one day the servant of an Englishman of high rank, whose dislocated shoulder he had set, told his master about it. The later had been lingering for six months on a bed of pain with a dislocated hip which all the surgeons of Paris were unable to reduce. The Englishman, while scolding his servant for his stupid credulity, sent for the cobbler who came before him with an independence of manner and a candour of speech to which this great lord was not in the least accustomed. He was greatly surprised at Valdajon’s short and unembarrassed rejoinder, who when he saw they were not coming to facts, said: ” let us make haste Milord, my time is my children’s bread.” The Englishman then showed him his dislocated hip, which the cobbler at once examined and reduced during the same interview. He applied an ointment which he had prepared himself, for Valdajon never used any remedies but those he had made himself. Soon after this the Englishman went to Court, where everybody was greatly surprised to see him, as they knew that for the last six months he had been in the hands of the medical faculty who were unable to do anything. The Englishman told his story which astounded everyone. Valdajon soon had his booth filled with all classes of patients whom he cured but from whom he accepted no remuneration, because, as he said he was a cobbler and not a doctor. Now it happened that Madame Victoire, the King’s sister, fractured her arm at the elbow. This fracture was so badly set that the elbow was on the inside at the place where venesection is performed. The whole faculty had handled it. It was a question of a painful and possibly dangerous operation. They sent for Valdajon who said: “This arm must be broken again,” which brought forth loud cries and desperation. He was touched by the sorrow of Madame Victoire and said to her, ” You Princesses have delicate stomachs, you cannot be treated like other people, leave it to me and you will suffer little.” He applied his local remedies and although one does not know how he went to work the operation was neither painful nor dangerous, and Valdajon as a reward received the diploma of first surgeon to the king. If this had happened to-day he could have been prosecuted as I have been (in the concept this has been cancelled and in its place: “If Valdajon had done that to-day he would have been, in spite of his results, or on account of his results, prosecuted by the Academy of Medicine”).
I too was born with a vocation for medicine and I will prove it. At eight years of age I dissected little birds in order to see the inner parts of their body and satisfy my curiosity, in the same way that children break their toys in order to find out what makes them move. I constantly tormented my father with questions that he might explain to me the functions of the organs. I had extraordinary inspirations when I was near patients. At twelve years of age I saved the life of one of my father’s friends who had been involuntarily poisoned by opium. Whilst the doctor, not recognising the poisoning, was treating him for a gastric disturbance, and ultimately threw a cloth over the head of the patient declaring that he was dying from cerebral congestion. I was preparing a decoction of lettuce, which taken by the patient gave him back his life after a certain time. I had in this case unconsciously employed homoeopathy; very frequently I noticed that the doctors did more harm than good to the patients. I used to question the physicians who treated my mother and their answers were so ambiguous and absurd that my analytical mind was not unreasonably scandalised. When I was ill they gave me black draughts, which made me still worse, and I then asked myself: “Why augment the evil to such an extent it no good comes from it”? At eighteen years of age I studied art anatomy in a lecture- room to which I had access when the pupils were absent. After having studied the external part of the human frame I wished also to study its internal parts, and then in spite of its loathsome side I went right through the study of anatomy as the doctors do. I did this as I do everything, in the way best possible to
I remained sixteen years with M. and Mme. le Thiere, and was the soul of the family. Le Thiere, the father, left me by an Act of Will when dying the two children of his eldest son, to whom I gave the medicines belonging to Hahnemann. M. and Mme. le Thiere died in my arms blessing the day they had given me shelter, and commended their family to my care. I have given in marriage two of their grand-daughters, and provided for them.
My interest in medical studies persisted; I had studied physiology and pathology and found everywhere doubt and error; I heard everyone say that the doctors were asses, and I was justified in sharing the general opinion, especially as being sometimes ill I received no help from the remedies that the best physicians administered to me, and when my excellent friends, whom I dearly loved, were ill I had the opportunity of continually realising the insufficiency, or the sad danger of the remedies employed for their treatment. On those occasions I was distressed like Hahnemann, and reasoned in the same way; my health was impaired as a result of grief caused by the loss of several of my friends. Looking everywhere for help I could not find any; the Organon of Hahnemann’s doctrine suddenly opened my eyes and the first glance showed me that it contained the whole truth about medicine; the sun of true medical science had at last risen for me. On the very same day I resolved to go and visit Hahnemann. I told my friends who considered me mad. I arrived in Coethen on October 8th, 18 (October 8th, 1834, has been struck out).
Dr. Hahnemann was living with his two youngest daughters, who were unmarried, in a small and unpretentious house. His remarkable face inspired me with respect and astonishment. He talked for a long time and immediately conceived a great friendship for me. He provided accommodation for me with one of his intimate friends, whose family at once became attached to me; soon a very strong sympathy united us; I found in him that moral perfection which I had constantly sought but had never found so completely in any one of my friends, although they were refined souls. I felt the need of being able to admire that which I loved, and not only found an exemplary man (from here onwards the rough draft is completely different from the finished copy- R.H.)whom I saw constantly performing miracles, but also a sublime intelligence, a genius, a beneficent being, such as had never lived on earth before, for of all useful discoveries, the one which gives back health is certainly the most important, and I said with Moliere: “Trash if you like: my trash is valuable to me.”!
Hahnemann wished to marry me, and his friends and his friends who had learned to appreciate my character did all they could to persuade me to accept his offer. It was only natural that I should hesitate. It was not the outlook of having to nurse a noble old man that frightened me, but the fear of losing him too soon and missing him so much that I might die of grief. Through various extraordinary circumstances I discovered, apart from his excessive kindness of heart, how much his surroundings tormented him, how much he needed a young, strong, devoted and clever soul who could lighten the burden of old age and help him to complete his great work, and how much I might be able to contribute to the development and propagation of the new medical science for which I had the most disinterested devotion. And so I married him (space, probably for the date-R.H.). In order to help his family, honour, him, and show that my devotion was not actuated by selfish motives I asked him to give his whole fortune to his children, which matter was legally arranged, and became known throughout Germany. I voluntarily renounced the share which the law allots to the wife in the inheritance of the husband; I refused the wedding presents; everything even to the smallest piece of furniture and linen was divided among the children. Having thus deprived my husband of all his property I legally assured for him the use of mine; those are irrefutable facts which prove my disinterestedness.
Hahnemann was happy for the first time; I nursed him as one nurses a newborn child, I was his barber, his valet, his secretary. I loved and admired him so much that I would have served him on my bended knees. Never was tenderness more fully returned, never was a union stronger. This perfect and longed for happiness, that each of us had found in its moral perfection, was attained by our marriage. It lasted until death and was never destroyed in spite of the extreme difference of age; thus it was again proved, that those who share the same views are of the same age.
Hahnemann associated me with his work; I served as interpreter and secretary when patients came to consult him, because he wrote everything; as his doctrine rests entirely upon the expression of symptom it cannot be practised without written notes. He made me learn his “Materia Medica pura,” a dry and difficult study; but as I possess an extraordinarily good memory it remained so well and so completely impressed upon my mind that whilst the patient told his symptoms I pointed out, in German to the doctor, the remedies in which this symptom was to be found. In this way I considerably shortened for him the search that every homoeopathy however capable is obliged to make if he wishes to cure. Hahnemann had created the “Materia Medica” but he did not remember all the single details so well as I did. When he once had the few remedies which I indicated to him and from which he always made his selection, his work became so easy that he could see a larger number of patients without becoming tired out each time. It gave him inexpressible joy to disclose to me all the mysteries of his science of healing. I must have been very stupid if I had not made rapid progress with such a teacher. He entrusted me entirely with the treatment of the poor who came at four o’clock and frequently numbered more than a hundred. Hahnemann sometimes looked in at this consultation hour more for the sake of enjoying the benedictions which were showered upon me, and for the sake of seeing me distribute the alms which I gave to the working people, who in their illness lacked necessaries, than in order to solve medical difficulties which might impede my work; for the good results were constant. The large afflux of patients proved it. All that I did in those days passed for his work, and I was quite satisfied that it should be so, and when he said to me: “Really I could not do better myself, I wish the world could know what a good homoeopath you are” (this was written by him own hand) I used to reply: