BOOK V. THE DEAD HAND.
45. CHAPTER XLV.
And let it not be supposed that opinion at the Tankard in Slaughter
Lane was unimportant to the medical profession: that old authentic
public-house--the original Tankard, known by the name of Dollop's--
was the resort of a great Benefit Club, which had some months before put
to the vote whether its long-standing medical man, "Doctor Gambit,"
should not be cashiered in favor of "this Doctor Lydgate," who was
capable of performing the most astonishing cures, and rescuing people
altogether given up by other practitioners. But the balance had been
turned against Lydgate by two members, who for some private reasons
held that this power of resuscitating persons as good as dead was an
equivocal recommendation, and might interfere with providential favors.
In the course of the year, however, there had been a change
in the public sentiment, of which the unanimity at Dollop's was an index
A good deal more than a year ago, before anything was known of
Lydgate's skill, the judgments on it had naturally been divided,
depending on a sense of likelihood, situated perhaps in the pit
of the stomach or in the pineal gland, and differing in its verdicts,
but not the less valuable as a guide in the total deficit of evidence.
Patients who had chronic diseases or whose lives had long been
worn threadbare, like old Featherstone's, had been at once inclined
to try him; also, many who did not like paying their doctor's bills,
thought agreeably of opening an account with a new doctor and
sending for him without stint if the children's temper wanted
a dose, occasions when the old practitioners were often crusty;
and all persons thus inclined to employ Lydgate held it likely
that he was clever. Some considered that he might do more than
others "where there was liver;"--at least there would be no harm
in getting a few bottles of "stuff" from him, since if these proved
useless it would still be possible to return to the Purifying Pills,
which kept you alive if they did not remove the yellowness.
But these were people of minor importance. Good Middlemarch families
were of course not going to change their doctor without reason shown;
and everybody who had employed Mr. Peacock did not feel obliged
to accept a new man merely in the character of his successor,
objecting that he was "not likely to be equal to Peacock."