+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


PERHAPS no one of the London Squares is
more full of interesting associations, and
certainly no one of them is more fresh and
pleasant to look upon, than Lincoln's Inn
Fields. In the centre of its green Lord
William Russell was beheaded; upon the
old wall that used to run along its eastern
side Ben Jonson, it is said, worked as a brick-layer;
amongst its north range of buildings
stands the thin sandwich of a house that holds
the manifold artistic gems of the Soane
Museum; its west side was the scene of some
of Lord George Gordon's riotings; whilst
on its south side stands the noble-looking
Grecian fronted building dedicated to the
purposes of the English College of Surgeons.

This building has many uses, and many
points challenging general admiration and
approval, the chief of them being its possession
of the museum made by John Hunter
afterwards purchased, and now supported, by
the nation; and open freely, not only to
medical men of all countries, but to the
public at large. The visitor who passes under
its handsome portico, up the steps and enters
its heavy mahogany and plate-glass doors,
finds himself in a large hall. On his right is
a staid-looking, black-robed porter, who requires
him to enter his name in the visitor's
booka preliminary which members equally
with strangers have to go through. On his
left are the doors leading to the secretary's
office, where students may, from time to time,
be seen going in to register their attendance
upon the prescribed lectures, and, later in
their career, passing through the same portals
big with the desperate announcement that
they are ready to submit to the examinations
that must be passed before they can get a
diploma. Facing the entrance door is a
second enclosed hall, with a roof supported by
fluted columns, and on the left of this a broad
stately architectural stone staircase leading to
the library and the council-chamberthe
scene of those dreadful ordeals, the examinations,
where Hospital Surgeons sit surrounded
by crimson and gold, and marble busts, and
noble pictures, to operate upon sweating and
stuttering and hesitating students who, two
by two, are seated in large chairs to be passed
or plucked.

The library is a noble, large room, of excellent
proportions, occupying the whole length
of the building in front, having tall plate-glass
embayed windows, each with its table
and chair; and in each of which the passers-by
in Lincoln's Inn Fileds, may generally see
a live surgeon framed and glazed, busily
occupied with his books, or still more busily
helping to keep up the tide of gossip for
which the place is celebrated. For some
twenty feet from the floor on all sides, the
walls are lined with books, telling in various
languages about all kinds of maladies and all
sorts of plans for cure. Above this, and just
under the handsomely panelled roof, hang
portraits of old surgeons, each famous in his
time, and now enjoying a sort of quiet renown
amongst their successors in the art and
science of chirurgery. All we have seen
thus far, betokens the quiet repose of wealth,
dignity, and learned leisure and ease. No
bustle, no noise, no trace of urgent labour is
heard or seen. Such of the officers of the
place as may be encountered, have a look
of somnolent if not sleek sufficiency, and
seem to claim a share of the consideration
which all are ready to concede, as due to the
character of the spot. Returning to the
hall, another door, facing that of the secretary,
leads to the great attraction and pride
of the placethe Hunterian Museuma collection
of skeletons and glittering rows of
bottles full of evidences how "fearfully and
wonderfully " all living creatures are made.
On all sides we see the bony relics of defunct
men and animalsgiants, dwarfs, both human
and quadruped, challenging attention. The
huge megatherium, the bones of poor Chuny,
the elephant shot in Exeter 'Change, the
skeleton of O'Brien the Irish giant, who
walked about the world eight feet high, and
near him all that remains of the form of the
Sicilian dwarf, who when alive was not taller
than O'Brien's knee. On the walls tier after
tier of bottles are ranged, till the eye following
them up towards the top of the building,
fatigued by their innumerable abundance, and
the variety of their contents, again seeks the
ground and its tables, there to encounter an
almost equal crowd of curious things collected
from the earth, the air, and the sea, to show
how infinite the varieties in which Nature
indulges, and how almost more than infinite
the curious ways in which life varies the
tenement it inhabits. But with this multiplicity
of things we see no confusion, or trace
of carelessness or poverty. All is neatness,
order, and repose. Not a particle of dirt
offends the eye; not a film of dust dims the
brilliancy of the regiments of bottles drawn
up in long files upon the shelves, to salute the
visitor. The place is a very drawing-room of
science, all polished and set forth in trim
order for the reception of the public. It is
the best room in the house kept for the display
of the results of the labours of the physiologist,
a spot devoted to the revelations of
anatomy, without the horrifying accompaniments
of the dissecting-room.

Thus far we have passed through what are
in truth the public portions of the College of
Surgeons, just glancing at its museum, unequalled
as a physiological collection by any
other in the world. In their surprise at the
curious things it contains, there are many, no
doubt, who wonder also where the things all
came from; and what patient men have gone
on since John Hunter's tune, adding to his
museum where it was deficient and keeping
all its parts in their present admirable state.