Brocklesby, Richard

, an eminent English physician, the son of Richard Brocklesby, est}. of the city of Cork, by Mary Alloway, of Minehead, Somersetshire, was born at Minehead, where his mother happened to be on a visit to her parents, Aug. 11, 1722. There he remained until he was three years old, at which time he was carried to Ireland, and privately instructed for some years in his father’s house at Cork. At a proper age he was sent to Ballytore school in the north of Ireland, at which Edmund Burkewas educated, and although they were not exactly contemporaries^ Dr. Brocklesby being seven years older, this circumstance led to a long and strict friendship. Having finished his classical education at Ballytore, with diligence and success, his father, intending him for a physician, sent him to Edinburgh, where after continuing the usual time, he went to Leyden, and took his degree under | the celebrated Gaubius, who corresponded with him for several years afterwards. His diploma is dated June 28, 1745, and the same year he published his thesis,” De Saliva sana et morbosa."

On returning home he began practice in Broad-street, London; and diligence, integrity, and œconomy, soon enabled him to surmount the difficulties which a young physician has to encounter, while his father assisted him with 150l. a year, a liberal allowance at that time. In 1746, he published “An Essay concerning the mortality of the horned cattle:” and in April, 1751, was admitted a licentiate of the college of physicians. He had by this time risen into reputation; and as his manners were naturally mild and conciliating, his knowledge well-founded, and his talents somewhat known as an author, he soon became acquainted with the leading men in the profession particularly the celebrated Dr. Mead, Dr. Leatherland, Dr. Heberden, sir George Baker, &c. He added another testimony to the fame of Dr. Mead, by always praising his skill, his learning, urbanity, &c. and amongst many other anecdotes of this extraordinary man, used to relate the circumstance of his giving that celebrated impostor, Psalmanazar, an opportunity of eating nearly a pound of raw human flesh at his table, to prove that this was the constant food of the inhabitants of Formosa .*


Amongst many other impositions of Psalmanazar, he related that the inhabitants of Formosa constantly ate human flesh, of which he as frequently partook, and which he called “delicious eating.” Dr. Mead, to try him, obtained a pound of human flesh of one of the dissecting surgeons of the hospital from the posteriors of a man who had been hanged that morning, which he had served up at his table, and which Psalmanazar actually ate, seemingly with a good liking, before a large party selected for that purpose. p 2

On the 28th of September 1754, he obtained an honorary degree from the university of Dublin, and was admitted to Cambridge ad eundem the 16th of December following. In virtue of this degree at Cambridge, he became a fellow of the college of London the 25th of June 1756; and, on the 7th of October 1758 (on the recommendation of Dr. Shaw, favoured by the patronage of the late lord Barrington), he was appointed physician to the army. In this capacity he attended in Germany the best part of what is called “the seven years’ war,” where he was soon distinguished by his knowledge, his zeal, and humanity; and particularly recommended himself to the notice of his grace the duke of Richmond, the late lord Pembroke, and | others, which with the former mellowed into a friendship, only terminated by the doctor’s life. On the 27th of October 1760, he was appointed physician to the hospitals for the British forces, and returned to England some time before the peace of 1763.

On his return he settled in Norfolk-street, in the Strand, where he was considered as a physician of very extensive experience, particularly in all diseases incident to the army. His practice spread in proportion to his reputation; and, with his half-pay, and an estate of about six hundred pounds per year, which devolved on him by the death of his father, he was now enabled to live in a very handsome manner, and his table was frequently filled with some of the most distinguished persons for rank, learning, and abilities in the kingdom. In the course of his practice, his advice as well as his purse was ever accessible to the poor, as well as to men of merit who stood in need of either. Besides giving his advice to the poor of all descriptions, which he did with an active and unwearied benevolence, he had always upon his list two or three poor widows, to whom he granted small annuities; and who, on the quarter day of receiving their stipends, always partook of the hospitalities of his table. To his relations who wanted his assistance in their business or professions, he was not only liberal, but so judicious in his liberalities as to supersede the necessity of a repetition of them. To his friend Dr. Johnson (when it was in agitation amongst his friends to procure an enlargement of his pension, the better to enable him to travel for the benefit of his health), he offered an establishment of one hundred pounds per year during his life: and, upon doctor Johnson’s declining it (which he did in the most affectionate terms of gratitude and friendship), he made him a second offer of apartments in his own house, for the more immediate benefit of medical advice. To his old and intimate friend Edmund Burke, he had many years back bequeathed by will the sum of one thousand pounds; but recollecting that this event might take place (which it afterwards did) when such a legacy could be of no service to him, he, with that judicious liberality for which he was always distinguished, gave it to him in advance, “ut pignus arnicitite;” it was accepted as such by Mr. Burke, accompanied with a letter, which none but a man feeling the grandeur and purity of friendship like him, could dictate. | Passing through a life thus honourably occupied in the liberal pursuits of his profession, and in the confidence and friendship of some of the first characters of the age for rank or literary attainments, the doctor reached his 73d year; and finding those infirmities, generally attached to that time of life, increase upon him, he gave up a good deal of the bustle of business, as well as his half-pay, on being appointed, by his old friend and patron the duke of Richmond, physician general to the royal regiment of artillery and corps of engineers, March, 1794. This was a situation exactly suited to his time of life and inclinations; hence he employed his time in occasional trips to Woolwich, with visits to his friends and patients. In this last list he never forgot either the poor or those few friends whom he early attended as a medical man gratuitously. Scarcely any distance, or any other inconvenience, could repress this benevolent custom; and when he heard by accident that any of this latter description of his friends were ill, and had through delicacy abstained from sending for him, he used to say, somewhat peevishly, “Why am I treated thus? Why was not I sent for?

Though debilitated beyond his years, particularly for a man of his constant exercise and abstemious and regular manner of living, he kept up his acquaintance and friendships to the last, and in a degree partook of the pleasantries and convivialities of the table. The friends, who knew his habits, sometimes indulged him with a nap in his arm chair after dinner, which greatly refreshed him: he then would turn about to the company, and pay his club of the conversation, either by anecdote or observation, entirely free from the laws or severities of old age.

In the beginning of December 1797, he set out on a visit to Mrs. Burke, at Beaconsfield, the long frequented seat of friendship and hospitality, where the master spirit of the age he lived in, as well as the master of that mansion, had so often adorned, enlivened, and improved the convivial hour. On proposing this journey, and under so infirm a state as he was in, it was hinted by a friend, whether such a length of way, or the lying out of his own bed, with other little circumstances, might not fatigue him too much: he instantly caught the force of this suggestion, and with his usual placidity replied, “My good friend, I perfectly understand your hint, and am thankful to you for it; but where’s the difference whether I die at a friend’s | house, at an inn, or in a post-chaise? I hope I’m every way prepared for such an event, and perhaps it would be as well to elude the expectation of it.” He therefore began his journey the next day, and arrived there the same evening, where he was cordially received by the amiable mistress of the mansion, as well as by doctors Lawrence and King, who happened to be there on a visit. He remained at Beaconsfield ‘till the llth of December, but recollecting that his learned nephew, Dr. Young, now foreign secretary to the royal society, was to return from Cambridge to London next day, he instantly set out for his house in town, where he ate his last dinner with his nearest friends and relations, About nine o’clock he desired to go to bed, but going up stairs fatigued him so much, that he was obliged to sit in his chair for some time before he felt himself sufficiently at ease to be undressed. In a little time, however, he recovered himself; and, as they were unbuttoning his waistcoat, he said to his elder nephew, “What an idle piece of ceremony this buttoning and unbuttoning is to me now!” When he got to bed he seemed perfectly composed, but in about five minutes after, expired with out a groan.

He was interred Dec. 18, in the church-yard of St. Cle^ jnent Danes, in a private manner, according to his request. His fortune, amounting to near 30,000l. after a few legacies to friends and distant relations, was divided between his two nephews, Robert Beeby, esq. and Dr. Thomas Young. The preceding facts may be sufficient to illustrate Dr. Brocklesby’s character. His future fame as a writer must rest on his publications, of which the following is, we believe, a correct list: 1. “Dissertatio Inaug. de Saliva Sanaet Morbosa,” Lug. Bat. 1745, 4to. 2. “An Essay concerning the Mortality of the Horned Cattle,1746, 8vo. 3. “Eulogium Medicum, sive Oratio Anniyersaria Harveiana habita in Theatris Collegii Regal is Me-? dicorum Londinensium, Die xviii Octobris,1760, 4to. 4. “Œconomical and Medical Observations from 1738 to 1763, tending to the improvement of Medical Hospitals,1764, 8vo. 5. “An Account of the poisonous root lately found mixed with Gentian,” Phil. Trans. N. 486. 6. “Case of a Lady labouring under a Diabetes,” Med. Observ. No. III. 7. “Experiments relative to the Analysis and Virtues of Seltzer Water,” ibid. vol. IV. 8. “Case of an Encysted Tumour in the Orbit of the Eye, cured by Messrs, Bromfield and Ingram,” ibid. 9. “A | Dissertation on the Music of the Antients.” We do not know the date of this last article, but believe it to be amongst his early literary amusements. When Dr. Young was at Leyden, a professor, understanding he was a nephew of Dr. Brocklesby’s, shewed him a translation of it in the German language. 1


From a life in the European Magazine, 1798. —Boswell’s Life of Johnson.Gent. Mag. vol. Lkvii.