For some years I have been using with success, in private and in hospital practice, certain methods of renewing the vitality of feeble people by a combination of entire rest and excessive feeding, made possible by passive exercise obtained through the steady use of massage and electricity.
The cases thus treated have been chiefly women of a class well known to every physician,—nervous women, who, as a rule, are thin and lack blood. Most of them have been such as had passed through many hands and been treated in turn for gastric, spinal, or uterine troubles, but who remained at the end as at the beginning, invalids, unable to attend to the duties of life, and sources alike of discomfort to themselves and anxiety to others.
In 1875 I published in “Seguin’s Series of American Clinical Lectures,” Vol. I., No. iv., a brief sketch of this treatment, under the heading of “Rest in the Treatment of Nervous Disease,” but the scope afforded me was too brief for the details on a knowledge of which depends success in the use of rest, I have been often since reminded of this by the many letters I have received asking for explanations of the minutiae of treatment; and this must be my apology for bringing into these pages a great many particulars which are no doubt well enough known to the more accomplished physician.
In the preface to the second edition I said that as yet there had been hardly time for a competent verdict on the methods I had described. Since making this statement, many of our profession in America have published cases of the use of my treatment. It has also been thoroughly discussed by the medical section of the British Medical Association, and warmly endorsed by William Playfair, of London, Ross of Manchester, Coghill, and others; while a translation of my book into French by Dr. Oscar Jennings, with an introduction by Professor Ball, and a reproduction in German, with a preface by Professor von Leyden, have placed it satisfactorily before the profession in France and Germany.
As regards the question of originality I did not and do not now much concern myself. This alone I care to know, that by the method in question cases are cured which once were not; and as to the novelty of the matter it would be needless to say more, were it not that the charge of lack of that quality is sometimes taken as an imputation on a man’s good faith.
But to sustain so grave an implication the author must have somewhere laid claim to originality and said in what respect he considered himself to have done a totally new thing. The following passage from the first edition of this book explains what was my own position:
“I do not wish,” I wrote, “to be thought of as putting forth anything very remarkable or original in my treatment by rest, systematic feeding, and passive exercise. All of these have been used by physicians; but, as a rule, one or more are used without the others, and the plan which I have found so valuable, of combining these means, does not seem to be generally understood. As it involves some novelty, and as I do not find it described elsewhere, I shall, I think, be doing a service to my profession by relating my experience.”