|cult and fatal
labors have never been so rife or so frequent as since their intermeddling.'
This is the case among us, some proofs of which will be presented in the
course of this exposition.
From the following paragraph it would seem that midwifery in those days
was not a very difficult or dear-bought science.
We are told, in Brewster's Edinburgh Encyclopedia, that 'Dr. Smellie gained
deserved reputation as a practitioner and a teacher. In his class he made
considerable use of machines, and, if we may credit his enemy, Dr. Douglass,
he endeavored to condense his information so as to suit all purses as well
as capacities; for he is said to have hung out a paper lantern with these
words; "Midwifery taught here for five shillings."'
The employment of instruments was considered such a wonderfrul improvement
upon nature, that almost every doctor, old and young, was for trying his
hand at it, (as too many are now;) and to such a pitch did this preposterous
manoeuvring proceed, that the friends of midwives and of nature opposed
it by argument, invective, and ridicule.
In 1759, Sterne employed his satirical pen against the instrumental performers,
in 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.' In this, his autobiography,
Tristram tells us he was born in 1718; and gives the particulars of his
advent into the world, as he received them from his 'Uncle Toby.' The obstetric
artist on this occasion was the illustrious Dr. Slop, consecrated to immortality.
It appears that he was a 'scientific operator, who had expressly written
a five shillings book upon the subject of midwifery, in which he had exposed
not only the bunders of the sisterhood itself, but had also superadded many
curious improvements for the quicker extraction of the foetus.' The result
of the doctor's experiment with his 'new-invented forceps,' in the case
of Mrs. Shandy, was such irreparable damage to Tristram's physiognomy as
to bring upon him, in every period of his earthly existence, a train of
vexatious disappointments and misfortunes; all of which he relates in his
'Life and Opinions.' That part of his autobiography which relates to his
nativity -- the writings, and indentures, and the warm discussions, between
his father and mother, Mrs. Shandy, on the one hand, in favor of the old
midwife and nature, and Mr. Shandy, on the other, for the 'scientific operator,'
and the 'improvements' -- the persons who figure, Obadiah, Uncle Toby, and
poral Trim---the character and exploits of the redoubtable Dr. Slop,
the man-midwife, &c.,---this portion of the 'Life and Opinions,' I
say, is so exceedingly applicable to the present times, so transcendently
amusing and instructive withal, that I have some idea of selecting and
arranging it in a pamphlet form, that the public may compare man-midwifery
as it was with man-midwifery as it is.
Nothwithstanding Dr. Slop's obstetric prowess and astonishing improvements,
midwives in his day continued in good repute, and received their commissions
from the highest sources, as appears forom the following notice on one,
who came to this country the same year Tristram Shandy was born.
A Successful Midwife.
The following inscription I took from a gravestone, a cheap
slab of slate, somewhat bedimmed by time, and standing much out of perpendicular,
in the 'Old Burying-Ground' in our neighboring city of Charlestown.
'Here lyes Interred the Body of Mrs. Elizabeth Philips, wife to Mr. John
Philips, who was Born in Westminster, in Great Britain, & Commissioned
by John, Lord Bishop of London, in the year 1718, to the office
of a Midwife, and came to this country in the Year 1719, & by the
blessing of God, has Brought into this world above 3000 children. Died
May 6th, 1761, aged 76 Years.'
A very respectable number. There is, I an informed, a similar record in
a burying-ground in Dorchester.
The graveyard contains myriads of proofs of the bad success, nay, of the
ignorant and cruel barbarity of male artists--as Professor Bedford, of
New York exclaims, 'If the grave could speak, how fearful would be its
warnings on this topic, how monstrous the guilt of those who revel in
innocent blood!' It is therefore pleasant to meet with these venerable
records of the ability and success of midwives, in this their proper office.
Those were the days when women made themselves useful, and aided and patronized
each other; they would have blushed at the thought and scorned the idea
of being dependent on male assistants.
In regard to the stone in Charlestown, lest any one should be deceived,
as the writer came near being, on looking at it, it is proper to state
that some graceless fellow has wantonly cut a figure 1 before the 3, which,
though too unskilfully done to deceive the