Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

A doctor of the old school

“The apparition of a god would not have caused more commotion…

“He belonged to that great school of surgery begotten of Bichat, to that generation, now extinct, of philosophical practitioners, who, loving their art with a fanatical love, exercised it with enthusiasm and wisdom. Everyone in his hospital trembled when he was angry; and his students so revered him that they tried, as soon as they were themselves in practice, to imitate him as much as possible. So that in all the towns about they were found wearing his long wadded merino overcoat and black frock-coat, whose buttoned cuffs slightly covered his brawny hands—very beautiful hands, and that never knew gloves, as though to be more ready to plunge into suffering. Disdainful of honors, of titles, and of academies, like one of the old Knight-Hospitallers, generous, fatherly to the poor, and practising virtue without believing in it, he would almost have passed for a saint if the keenness of his intellect had not caused him to be feared as a demon. His glance, more penetrating than his bistouries, looked straight into your soul, and dissected every lie athwart all assertions and all reticences. And thus he went along, full of that debonair majesty that is given by the consciousness of great talent, of fortune, and of forty years of a laborious and irreproachable life.”

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

La mort of Madame Bovary (The Death of Madame Bovary). Madame Bovary lies in her wedding gown on a bed next to a tall, bright candle and crucifix while her lover stands over her with his head held in grief. The priest and another man are shown asleep in their chairs. The window is open, and it appears to be a bright and sunny day.
La mort de Madame Bovary. Painting by Albert Fourié, 1883. Via Wikimedia.

Highlighted Vignette Volume 15, Issue 1 – Winter 2023

Fall 2022  |  Sections  |  Literary Vignettes


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.