Dr. John Henry Clarke passed on to the Great Beyond on Tuesday, November 24, 1931, after a life of extraordinary devotion and usefulness to homoeopathy. His memory will live on imperishable in every quarter of the globe through his written words.
Anyone who had met Clarke but a few times, even only once, must have been impressed with the feeling of an exceptional human being, a forceful personality, a man apart. He was literally a man apart, as he took his work and his mission so seriously that he gave himself very little time to mix with others. Perhaps, also, there were very few with whom he felt in harmony. He was a prodigious worker, as his published works testify, to say nothing of the hosts of private patients from all parts of the world. He was editor of The Homoeopathic World for altogether twenty-nine years.
He was indeed an outstanding character, and if one can compare him with another, it is with him who was probably the greatest homoeopath that the United States has produced Dr. James Tyler Kent. They had the same forcible way of expressing themselves combined with an inherent retiring nature the same intolerance of anything second-rate, especially as relating to their beloved system of therapeutics, the same scorn and contempt for time-servers. And each gave to the world of homoeopathy the greatest and most valuable book that their respective countries have produced, indeed, in our opinion, the two most indispensable works written since the days of Hahnemann the Dictionary of Materia Medica and the Repertory of Materia Medica. Clarke is not dead. How can a man whose work is, and always will be, a continual source of inspiration to thousands how can such a man ever die? F. WOODS, The Homoeopathic World, January 1932.
There are many eminent professional men in homoeopathy, such is the vitality of the science there always will be, but in the passing of John Henry Clarke there is something of drama of the suddenly darkened stage a blacking out.
What can be done by friends when their friend dies? To express adequately what is felt is impossible. Here is a man by far the greatest figure in English homoeopathic circles who in his lifetime entirely refused public recognition; a kind of king who just slipped out of our lives.
To come to the man himself. In the first he had exceptional brains. He took his M.B., C.M. at Edinburgh University in 1875 as gold medalist in several subjects, followed it up with the M.D. and further academic successes and appointments in 1877. His work in the homoeopathic field commenced almost immediately. He became a keen follower of Dr. Compton Burnett who was himself in the direct hierarchy of Shuldam and the great Ruddock who died in 1876. In April, 1885, Dr. Burnett edited his last number of The Homoeopathic World and the next month, May 1885, Dr. Clarke commenced as editor.
We must remember that at that time homoeopathy was fighting a very uphill battle. If it had not been for Dr. Clarke it would never have won. There is no doubt whatever about that; but why do I, how can I, state it so positively? It is incontestable. Think for a moment of the situation.
Here was a science extraordinarily successful on the Continent, sweeping, in fact over Germany, owing to the personality of Hahnemann. But in England, though carried on with the greater courage, it was faced with the conventional opposition of the deadliest kind. True that Ruddocks Homoeopathic Vade Mecum of Modern Medicine and Surgery put homoeopathy soundly on its feet but few men have ever been able to write like Ruddock. John Henry Clarke with his brilliant brain saw even further that the science needed exposition which would teach the subject and bind it down to scientific principles.
It was not done hurriedly, for he told me he had been gathering notes and putting them down long after midnight for many years. In 1895 we published for him the colossal undertaking. Clarkes Dictionary of Materia Medica and Clinical Repertory. Hitherto there had been something furtive, almost secret, about homoeopathic publishing. Dr. Ruddock had been compelled to keep his publishing department in his own basement. Every homoeopathic doctor had had to seek a chemist Clarke, himself, had to do so for his early works for publication, no reputable publishing house daring to touch what was “officially” anathema.
That this furtiveness seared Clarkes soul is without question. His attacks upon the authorized school were continuous and unflinching, his scorn of empirical prescribing “pouring drugs into the system” flung out like fire from the pages of The World Clarke was in touch with the centre of the science, he was instrumental in carrying it into Brazil, his works were translated into Spanish and German. He resigned as editor of The World in 1908 (because of his opposition to official vaccination for smallpox which was then rampant in England) and returned again as editor in 1923.
To claim Dr. John Clarke as a master is no hyperbole. Medical men make their mark almost always by their personal skill. If they are not (at call) available that mark is unmade. But in the case of a doctor who has the rare “gift” of putting down on paper readable, instructive and permanent directions for the treatment of all kinds of sickness and trouble the mark is indelible. For the science of which it treats it is simply invaluable. Clarke many times spoke to me of the lack of homoeopathic doctors. He directed his mind towards helping the layman and kept the columns of The World always open to him. People from all parts of the universe wrote to him for help and guidance. When I handed him a bundle of letters I used to call him the Universal Provider.
I do not doubt that he antagonized some. Without question he had antipathies which were out of proportion, but I think these were the reactions to the struggles of his early life. He could not admire the laggards who were reaping the benefit of his bayonet work. Why should he? And yet back of this attitude there shone the light of sympathy to everyone. In latter years he was attracted to the poetry of William Blake and wrote two small books on him. He was in search of another battle ground, this time of a mystical and religious nature.
So we come to the last phase. I had expected him to go on forever, for he had looked so well on the last occasion. Until the news suddenly came upon me I too, like you perhaps, could not see the wood for the trees! Homoeopathy is so generally accepted that we do not sufficiently realize how it has become so or how enormously this one man had contributed during those long years. I was not even aware of his sudden illness till, in the broken lines of his handwriting just decipherable, there came “I can write as you see, but to read what I have written is another matter. I am sorry to close our association in this way”.
The association is not closed. The World and his publications will continue the work for which John Henry Clarke both lived and died. There is a trite saying that none of us is indispensable, but in Clarkes case that does not hold. In the first place he had the knowledge, in the second the energy, enthusiasm and capacity for the meeting of opposition, and finally the gift of teaching by way of books. If he had not been a good practitioner even these great qualities might have lacked, but settling himself down in the most exclusive part of the West End of London he there reflected honour upon the profession, built up a fine practice and maintained it to his death, amidst a host of friends.
Of just such a man Cicero was thinking when he wrote: Mortales inimicitias, sempiternas amicitias for of few is it more true than of the late John Henry Clarke: May our enmities be short lived, our friendships eternal.
God rest his soul and make us mindful of a life well lived, well done. – EDGAR WHITAKER, M.D., The Homoeopathic World, January 1932.