Cheyne, George

, a physician of considerable eminence and singular character, was descended from a good family in Scotland, ‘ where he was born in 1671. He received a regular and liberal education, and was at first intended by his parents for the church, though that design was afterwards laid aside. He passed his youth, as he himself informs us, in close study, and in almost continual application to the abstracted sciences; and in these pursuits his chief pleasure consisted. The general course of his life, therefore, at this time, was extremely temperate and sedentary; though he did occasionally admit of some relaxation, diverting himself with works of imagination, and “rousing nature by agreeable company and good cheer.” But upon the slightest excesses he found such disagreeable effects, as led him to conclude, that his glands were naturally lax, and his solids feeble: in which opinion he was confirmed, by an early shaking of his hands, and a disposition to be easily ruffled on a surprize. He studied physic at Edinburgh under the celebrated Dr. Pitcairne, to whom he was much attached, and whom he styles “his great master and generous friend.” Having taken the degree of doctor of physic, he repaired to London to practise as a physician, when he was about thirty years of age. On his arrival in the metropolis, he soon quitted the regular | and temperate manner of life to which he had been chiefly accustomed, and partly from inclination, and partly from, a view to promote his practice, he passed much of his time in company, and in taverns. Being of a cheerful temper, and having a lively imagination, with much acquired knowledge, he soon rendered himself very agreeable to those who lived and conversed freely. He was, as he says, much caressed by them, “and grew daily in bulk, and in friendship with these gay gentlemen, and their acquaintances.” But, in a few years, he found this mode of living very injurious to his health: he grew excessively fat, shortbreathed, listless, and lethargic.

But before his health was in this unfavourable state, he had published a medical treatise, in 8vo, under the following title: “A new Theory of acute and slow-continued Fevers: wherein, besides the appearances of such, and the manner of their cure, occasionally the structure of the Glands, and the manner and laws of Secretion, the operation of purgative, vomitive, and mercurial medicines are mechanically explained.” To this he prefixed “An essay concerning the Improvements of the Theory of Medicine.” This treatise on fevers was drawn up by Dr. Cheyne, at the desire of Dr. Pitcairne; but it was a hasty performance; and therefore, though it seems to have been favourably received, our author never chose to prefix his name to it. His next publication was a piece on abstracted geometry and algebra, entitled “Fluxionum Methodus inversa; sive quantitatum fluentium leges generaliores.” He afterwards published a defence of this performance, although he never had a very good opinion of it, against Mr. De Moivre, under the following title: “Rudimentorum Methodi Fiuxionurn inversae Specimina, adversus Abr. De Moivre.” In 1705, when he was about thirty-four years of age, at which time he was a fellow of the royal society, he published, in 8vo, “Philosophical Principles of Natural Religion containing the Elements of Natural Philosophy, and the proofs for Natural Religion arising from them.” This piece he dedicated to the earl of Roxburgh, at whose desire, and for whose instruction, it appears to have been originally written.

In consequence of the free mode of living in which our author had for some time indulged himself, besides the ill consequences that have been already mentioned, he at length brought on himself, as he informs us, an autumnal | intermittent fever; but this he removed in a few weeks by taking the bark. He afterwards went on tolerably well for about a year, though neither so clear in his faculties, nor so gay in his temper, as he had formerly been. But the following autumn, he was suddenly seized with a vertiginous paroxysm, so alarming in its nature, as to approach nearly to a fit of an apoplexy. By degrees, his disorder turned to a constant violent head-ach, giddiness, and lowness of spirits upon which he entirely left off suppers, which he never resumed, and also confined himself at dinner to a small quantity of animal food, drinking but very little fermented liquors." The decline of his health and spirits occasioned him to be deserted by many of his more airy and jovial companions; and this circumstance contributed to the increase of his melancholy. He soon after retired into the country, into a fine air, and lived very low; and at this time he employed himself in the perusal of some of the most valuable theological writers. He bad never, even in his freer moments, deserted the great principles of natural religion and morality; but in his present retirement he made divine revelation the more immediate object of his attention. The books that he read were recommended to him by a worthy and learned clergyman of the church of England, whom he does not name, but whom he represents to be the man, that of all his numerous acquaintance, he the most wished to resemble.

Dr. Cheyne’s retirement into the country, and low regimen, having not entirely removed his complaints, he was persuaded by his medical and other friends, to try the Bath waters. He accordingly went to Bath, and for some time found considerable relief from drinking the waters. But he afterwards returned to London for the winter season, and had recourse to a milk diet, from which he derived the most salutary consequences. He now followed the business of his profession, with great diligence and attention, in summer at Bath, and in the winter at London, applying himself more particularly to chronical, and especially to low and nervous cases: and at this period of his life, he generally rode on horseback ten or fifteen miles every day, both summer and winter: in summer on the Downs at Bath, and in winter on the Oxford road from London.

After our author had found his health to be thoroughly established, he again made a change in his regimen, gradually lessening the quantity of his milk and vegetables, | and by slow degress, and in moderate quantities, living on the lightest and tenderest animal food. This he did for some time, and at last gradually went into the common mode of living, and drinking wine, though within the bounds of temperance; and appears to have enjoyed good health for several years. But his mode of living, though he indulged in no great irregularities, was still more free than his constitution would admit-, and at length produced very ill effects. In the course of ten or twelve years he continued to increase in size, and at length weighed more than thirty-two stone. His breath became so short, that upon stepping into his chariot quickly, and with some effort, he was ready to faint away, and his face would turn black. He was not able to walk up above one pair of stairs at a time, without extreme difficulty; he was forced to ride from door to door in a chariot even at Bath; and if he had but a hundred paces to walk, he was obliged, as he informs us himself, to have a servant following him with a stool to rest upon. He had also some other complaints, and grew extremely lethargic; and at Midsummer in 1723, he was seized with a severe symptomatic fever, which terminated in a most violent erisipelas. He continued to be in a very bad state of health for about a year and a half, having now resided for a considerable time almost entirely at Bath. But in December 1725, he went to London, where he had the advice of his friend Dr. Arbuthnot, Dr. Mead, Dr. Freind, and some other physicians. From nothing, however, did he find so much, relief as from a milk and vegetable diet; by a strict adherence to which, in. somewhat more than two years, his health was at length thoroughly established; and he almost entirely confined himself to this regimen during the remainder of his life.

In the mean time, our author continued to publish some other medical works; particularly “An essay of the truk nature and due method of treating the Gout, together with an account of the nature and quality of Bath Waters, the manner of using them, and the diseases in which they are proper: jas also of the nature and cure of most Chronical distempers.” This passed through at least five editions; and was followed by “An essay on Health and Long Life;” which was well received by the public, but occasioned sundry reflections to be thrown out against him by some persons of the medical profession. In 1726, he published the same work in Latin, enlarged’, under the following title: | GeorgiL Cheynsei Tractatus de Infirmorum Sanitate tuenda, Vitaque producenda, libro ejusdern argument! Anglice edito longe auctior et limatior; huic accessit de natura fibrse ej usque laxae sive resolutae morbis tractatus mine primum editus.” In 1733, he published a piece in 8vo, under the title “The English Malady: or, a treatise of Nervous diseases of all kinds; as Spleen, Vapours, Lowness of Spirits, Hypochondriacal and Hysterical distempers, &c.” His next publication, which was printed in 1740, was entitled “An essay on Regimen; together with five discourses, medical, moral, and philosophical: serving to illustrate the principles and theory of philosophical Medicine, and point out some of its moral consequences.” The last work of our author, which he dedicated to the earl of Chesterfield, was entitled “The natural method of curing the Diseases of the Body, and the Disorders of the Mind depending on the $ody; in three parts. Part I. General reflections on the œconomy of nature in animal Life. Part II. The means and methods for preserving life and faculties; and also concerning the nature* and cure of acute, contagious, and cephalic disorders. Part III. Heflections on the nature and cure of particular chronical distempers.

Dr. Cheyne died at Bath, April 12, 1743, in the seventysecond year of his age. He had great reputation in his own time, both as a practitioner and as a writer; and most of his pieces passed through several editions. He is to be ranked among those physicians who have accounted for the operations of medicine, and the morbid alterations which take place in the human body, upon mechanical principles. A spirit of piety and of benevolence, and an ardent zeal for the interests of virtue, are predominant throughout his writings. An amiable candour and ingenuousness are also discernible, and which led him to retract with readiness whatever appeared to him to be censurable in what he had formerly advanced.*


Of this we have a remarkable instance in the preface to his Essay on Health and Long Life, in which is the following passage: "The defence of that book (his Methodus Fluxiommi inversa) against the learned and acute Mr. Abr. de Moivre, being written in a spirit of levity and resentment, I most sincerely retract, and wish undone, so far as it is personal or peevish, and ask him and the world pardon for it; as I do for the defence of Dr. Pitcairne’s Dissertations, and the New Theory of Fevers, against the late learned and ingenious Dr. Oliphant. I heartily condemn and detest all personal reflections, all malicious and unmannerly terms, and all false and unjust repre-


sentations, as unbecoming gentlemen, scholars, and Christians; and disprove and undo both performances, as far as in me lies, in every thing that does not strictly and barely relate to the argument.“Another of Dr. Cheyne’s resolutions ought never to be forgotten, and to which he sincerely endeavoured to adhere: ”To neglect nothing to secure his eternal peace, any more than if he had been certified he should die within the day; nor to mind any thing that his secular obligations and duties demanded of him less, than if he had been insured to live fifty years more."

Some of | the metaphysical notions winch he has introduced into his books may perhaps justly be thought fanciful and illgrounded; but there is an agreeable vivacity in his productions, together with much openness and frankness, and in general great perspicuity. Of his relations, his halfbrother, the rev. William Cheyne, vicar of Weston near Bath, died Sept. 6, 1767, and his son the rev. John Cheyne, vicar of Brigstock, Northamptonshire, died August 11, 1768. 1