Two trees being cultivated by doctors; symbolising the differences claimed by James Morison between the 'organic' and his 'hygeist' approached to health. Lithograph, c. 1835.

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London (368 Strand) : [publisher not identified] (Threadneedle St. : Dean & Co. Litho)

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1 print : lithograph ; image 26.5 x 41.6 cm


Fallacy of the organic theory of doctors illustrated - by hygeists ... Lettering continues: [Under left tree:] A tree under the organic or doctor's system, - being undrained of corrupt matter, is in a state of decay throughout. [Under right tree:] Tree under the hygeian or Morisonian system, being drained of all impurities - is in a flourishing state!! [Underneath picture:] Compare the human body to a tree with all it's roots and branches, and then fancy doctors giving thousands of different drugs, among which are numbered prussic acid, opium, mercury &c, to eradicate diseases out of different parts of the body. - Does it not seem an absurdity? Hygeists, on the contrary, treat the human body as a tree going to decay. Viz: by draining the roots of stagnant impurities, the sole cause of it's body & branches being withered and in a dying state. Let doctors, if they can, prove the fallacy of this analogy, they might just as well prescribe different remedies for the different branches of a tree going to decay, as prescribe different remedies for different parts of the body. Are not trees & plants treated as a whole? So should it be with the human body. - Issued by the British College of Health, New Road, London, for and on behalf of the body of hygeists, who contend that all diseases proceed from an impurity of the blood, and should therefore be treated with the "universal medicine", which being composed of innocuous ingredients, can be taken without the advice of a doctor. [Left-hand picture, speech bubbles from left to right from topmost man sitting on branch marked 'asthma', holding branch marked 'gout'. He has a 'diploma' hanging from his pocket:] "I have made 30 visits on this patient, which at half a guinea each, makes 26 [pounds and] 5. Confound Sir James Graham and his free trade in physic, say I." [Man sawing at bulbous branch marked 'cancer':] "Nothing like the knife - the disease is sure to come again. The organic theory for ever! If we treated this tree as a whole, where would be our profits?" [Man sawing at excrescence labelled 'white swelling']: This is my branch of the profession. The organic theory for ever: that's the theory to make money by - lots of attendances and physic, hurrah!" [Man hanging from tree:] "The public have found us out. I can hold on no longer" [Man on ladder tapping the central bulge of the tree, marked 'Dropsy':] Nothing but tapping will do for the dropsy - what with symptoms and opinions, we can easily bamboozle our patients, who leave it all to us." [Man on ladder holding bottles labelled 'Laudanum and mercury' and 'prussic acid':] Telling the world that these poisons are medicines when scientifically administered by us, will prevent people trying to cure themselves. The organic theory for ever!" [Five speech bubbles emanating from physicians at bottom-right of tree:] "We are much indebted to the homoeopathists and animal magnetizers for making medicine still more mysterious than ever!" "Under the organic theory, we can safely declare any one insane; our certificate, in fact, supersedes the prerogative of the crown." "You know we can treat a patient just as we please - the public know nothing of the matter; and as we are generally people of education, they do not suspect that we make a trade of medicine and of their diseases." "Lest we are all of different opinions, it wouldn't do to have fixed principles." "These hygeists behind us make the whole thing so plain that everyone can be his own doctor - they must therefore be put down by fair or unfair means" [Pharmacist pointing from shop:] "Morison pays 7000 [pounds] a year to Government for the three half-penny stamps. - If the sale is not abolished by law, no new enactment for effecting medical reform will possess the value of the paper on which the clauses are written." Lancet. 1834-35. V. 11. page 569. [On the far left, a pharmacist called Lancet & co. is covered with signs. Under a cabinet containing prussic acid, mercury, laudanum and arsenic, a sign reads:] Cupping and bleeding. [Above the shop:] Poison... Wherein [are] made up the poisonous prescriptions of doctors commonly call'd a chemist and druggists. To let. [Adjacent house:] Mad house. Where sane people are confined as lunatics up[on] the interested certificate of a doctor. Kept by Messrs. Catch'em & Fleece'em, physicians and surgeons - NB Room for 60 patients at 10 guineas per week each. [A young woman is being dragged in below] [On the other side of this half, a large house with more placards:] Students fee 50 [pounds] each. A house for experiments on the poor in order to support the organic theory - commonly call'd hospital or infirmary. [At the bottom of the tree: Consumption. Corrupt humours. Inflammation. ...ession. Intemperance. Bad medical treatment. Stagant humours] [On the right side of the picture, next to a healthy tree, five 'hygeists' confer:] "Those doctors on the other side will never cure their tree; they are all looking to the effects, instead of the real and only cause: the sap or blood of the tree is impure and cannot circulate; therefore its branches are affected in different ways; they should drain the tree of it's impurities, as we have done." "We've drained the tree of sour and stagnant impurities and behold it thrives well." "The principles of the Hygeian System are founded on the laws of nature: -it is, in short, a system of cleansing and purifying in the proper and natural way." "We've treated it as a whole!" "We are unanimous." [The building on the far right is inscribed:] British College of Health. Established 1826

References note

Too late for: British Museum Catalogue of political and personal satires, London 1870-1954
William H. Helfand, 'James Morison and his pills', Transactions of the British Society for the History of Pharmacy, London 1974, vol. I, no. 30


For coloured version of this print, see record no. 10766i


Wellcome Collection 18136i


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