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Page 1: EXPOSURE OF M. CHABERT

668

called Cantharis in the first column, is de.

I nominated Lytta in the second, and in thethird the Eleviterata of Tabricius, though hisarrangement is even more artificial than thatof Linné, is opposed to Coleoptera, as a

natural order ; again, after 11 Galls," the’ name of the insect which forms them is

given in the second column, and the classand order of the oak on which they are

grown in the third.The description of the brain is tolerably

correct, but that of the cerebral nerves is

very imperfect ; in the account of the nervusvagus, for instance, the recurrent branch isnot even mentioned. In fact the whole ofthe anatomical and physiological part is justsuch as we might imagine would be writtenby a person who copies servilely from otherworks, without taking the trouble to con-sider whether he understands what he haswritten or not. The sections on the practiceof medicine, and on midwifery, are very littlebetter; in the former the absurd, and nowexploded arrangement of Cullen, is implicitlyfollowed, and the descriptions, both of symp-toms and of treatment, are very imperfect,and have no reference to any of the numerousnd important discoveries and improvements

.ich have been made within the last

nty or thirty years. At first we were

,er at a loss to account for the briefness,

ess, and great want of connexion ofumbered paragraphs ; but on arriving

0 e end of the book the difficulty was

rly solved, as we then discovered, thatwere the answers to a set of questions

ere appended.

EXPOSURE OF M. CHABERT.

[From the Times.]

ON Wednesday, the 3d inst., Mr. Wak-ley applied to Mr. Halls, one of the ma-gistrates of Bow Street, with a view to

ascertain the degree of responsibility whichwould attach to him if he were to administera fatal dose of prussic acid to M. Chabert.Mr. Wakley explained to Mr. Halls thenature of M. Chabert’s pretensions, and, inoider to place the question, at least with

regard to prussic acid, beyond dispute,and to afford the public the most positiveproof that M. Chabert’s offer to swallowprussic acid was not an idle boast, hestated that it was his intention to attend onthe following day at M. Chabert’s exhibi-

tion, and personally administer to him a par.tion of prussic acid of very great strpngth ;but being satisfied of the fatal qualities ofthe acid, and that a single drop of the dose he(Mr. Wakley) should take with him, wouldproduce instantaneous death, he felt a dit’-ficulty, as regarded himself, should the re-sult of the trial prove unfortunate; aiid hewished to know of the magistrate whether,under these circumstances, in the eye of thelaw he should be considered accessory to thedeath of M. Chabert, and be made liable tothe consequences-a situation in which hewas by no means solicitous to appear.Mr. Halls said, that he thought Mr. Wak.

ley would stand in the same situation as anapothecary who should vend a deleteriousdrug, the word poison" being written onthe bottle.Mr. Wakley said, that he not only pro.

posed to furnish the prussic acid, but, to

prevent the possibility of deception, he in.tended to administer it himself to M. Cha-bert

Mr. Halls observed, that he would by all; means advise Mr. Wakley to do no such

, thing; as, if he felt certain that the poisonwould prove fatal, he would certainly incurthe risk which he was desirous of preventing.

Mr. Wakley said, that he felt the situationto be an awkward one. He byno means wish.ed to put himself forward in the matter; hehad, indeed, for a considerable time, ab.stained from any interference with the featsof M. Chabert ; but having, in his capacityof editor, received a vast number of commu-nications from medical men on the subject,and being continually urged to put the as-sertions of Chabert, with respect to prussicacid, to the test, he now felt desirous to doso, that the claims of that individual to the

possession of a secret antidote might befairly ascertained; or, if his feats should

prove to be founded in juggle or sleight ofhand, that public exposure should follow.Mr. HALLS remarked, it would be desira.

ble that the matter should be placed, if pos-sible, beyond doubt. It was certainly mostextraordinary, if M. Chabert possessed thepower of resisting the effects of a poison sodeadly in its nature, and instantaneous in itseffects, as prussic acid. He (Mr. Halls)had, however, heard medical gentlemen de-clare, who were present at the Fire King’sexhibitions, that he actually swallowedprussic acid.Mr. WAKLEY said, that if he swallowed

the smallest portion of the prussic acidwhich he proposed to offer him to-morrowathis benefit, and if he survived the dose, his(Mr. Wakley’s) incredulity would be com-pletely dissipated.Mr. HALLS said, that the other feats of

M. Chabert sunk into comparative insignin-cance, when compared with the fact of his

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669

swallowing prussic acid. Mr. Wakley knewas well as any man, that it was no great featto take a spoonful of boiling oil, or to standthe effects of a heated oven.Mr.WAKLEY remarked, that such feats

were common to all jugglers. It was quitedifferent, however, with respect to water

heated to the boiling point ; ahd M. Chaberthad not, as he (Mr. Waklev) proposed, saidwhether or not he was willing to try thelatter test. Mr. Wakley, after again re-

peating his total disbelief of the power toresist deadly poisons, and more especiallyprussic acid, which M. Chabert claimed, ob.served, that the whole medical professionwas deeply interested in the question, andit was felt as a stigma on its members, thatthe means of counteracting the effects of suchdreadfully destructive drugs as prussic acid,arsenic, &c., should be limited to one in-dividual, ifit were indeed true that 1B1. Cha-bert possessed the secret of which lie boast-ed. He (Mr. Wakley) was determined, ifpossible, to put the matter beyond doubt ;hut, at the same time, he would act uponMr. Hall’s recommendation, and hold him-self clear from the consequences which mightfollow, if he were to administer the poison tothe Fire King.Mr. HALLS said, he wished Alr. Wakley

to understand that he must act entirely uponhis own responsibility.Mr. WAKLEY observed, he should not

readily administer the prussic acid to M.Chabert to-morrow. If, however, he shouldinvite him to do so, he supposed he shouldbe justified in meeting his wishes, as itwould then be his own act.Mr. MINSHULL observed, that as amagis-

trate he was bound to caution Mr. Wakleyhow, by any act of his, he endangered theIrfe of a fellow-creature.Mr. WAKLEY, having thanked the magis-

trates, retired, expressing his determinationto be present at M. Chabert’s benefit, forthe purpose of putting his pretensions to thetest "

The above report, together with others ofa similar description, which appeared in the’Mnung newspapers, had the effect ofdraw-ing an immense assemblage of gentlemen toM. Chabert’s exhibition room. The follow-ing account of the proceedings is taken fromthe Morning Post of Saturday." An immense crowd, as we have already

stated, consisting principally of medical andscientific men, assembled in the ArgyleRooms, on Thursday afternoon, in conse-quence of Mr. Wakley’s resolution stricthtj exact the performance of M. Chabert’spromise to swallow prussic acid. M. Cha-bert had advertised his benefit for that day,cn which occasion he was. to repeat all hisextraordinary experiments. After some de-hy he made his appearance, closely follow-

ed by Mr. Wakley ; and avrare of the in-tense curiosity which had brought so largea concourse together, immediately com-menced an address to the company :-Gentlemen,-I no well onderstan de An-

glis, and derefore after I shall speak myfriend shall traduce (interpret) me to you.I am ready to perform all what I promise.-(Cheers.) I shall administer de prussicacid to two dogs, one of which shall die be-fore he take it (laughter), and de odershall have my antidote and live. I havenot-a said dit I will take de prussic acidmyself to-day, but de two dogs I speak of."[Here M. Chabert was interrupted by loudexclamations of astonishment, that he shouldthus attempt to recede from his promise.His words appeared to act as a charm, andinstantly to open the eyes of the personspresent, to the deception which had hither-to been practised upon the public.] Theclamour was increasing, whenMr. WELSH presented himself, and having

obtained silence, spoke nearly as follows :-Gentlemen, I do not consider M. Chabert

guilty of any deception in this affair. He cer-tainly has not undertaken to swallow prussicacid (groans and hisses).-I, as proprietor ofthese rooms, would not allow him to do so ; Iwould not suffer such an experiment undermy roof till I had seen it safely tried else-where. Besides which, the majority of thepresent company are ladies ; (this astound-ing discovery there being precisely five ofthe fair sex in the room, and between threeand four hundred gentlemen, was receivedwith shouts of laughter and hisses, whichredoubled when Mr. Welsh added)-’ andthe exhibition could not possibly be a pleas-ing one to them.’Mr. WAKLEY now offered to address the

assembly, and the tumult again subsided.He said, that notwithstanding the repeatedaccounts they had heard of M. Chabert’swonderful performances, he was still one ofthe incredulous. He never would believethat any man existed capable of swallowingprussic acid with impunity. It was farfrom his wish to kill M. Chabert, but, beingresolved to decide the question to the satis-faction of every one, he had brought withhim a small quantity of the genuine acid,which he now offered to M. Chabert.

[Here M. Chabert interrupted the speaker,by insisting that be had not promised totake the poison, but merely to administer itto dogs.]Mr. WAKLEY. As to the subterfuge at-

tempted by Mr. Welsh and M. Chabert, it isa point which may easily be settled, if Mr.Welsh will oblige me by reading the adver-tisement of the performance. [Mr. Welshread the advertisement, in which M. Cha-bert distinctly announced that he would onthat day (Feb. 4th) for his benefit, go

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through all his performances, and also showthe effect of prussic acid upon two dogs,&c.] This is sufficiently clear and unequi-vocal, continued Mr. Wakley, and now, byone simple question, I shall at once set theaffair in its true light (turning to M. Cha-bert), I ask you distinctly, Did you everswallow prussic acid in this room ?" (Greatattention. )

, M. CHABERT: " Exkuse me, Sare," He

rould proceed no further; his voice wasdrowned in the hootings and hissings whichassailed him on all sIdes. In the midst ofthe noise, a gentleman rose and stated, thatM. Chabert had positively engaged, somemonths ago, to take a spoonful of prussicabid on the day of his benefit, not beingprepared at the time alluded to. (Severalpersons corroborated this statement.) Hedid not understand M. Chabert’s meaningwhen he spoke about preparation ; it mustneeds be a very remarkable species of anti- ,,

dote which would only work on particulardays. (Laughter.)Another gentleman, Mr. King, soon af-

terwards rose, and assured the company ’,that he had a short time ago notified to

M. Chabert that he would put his pretendedpowers to the proof, by presenting to himsome potent poisons, but that he had aban-doned his intention at the earnest represen-tations ofM. Chabert, who waited expresslyon him (Mr. King) at his residence, andbegged of him not to interfere in the per-formances, for it would be taking the breadout of his mouth! ’

MR. WAKLEY said, I regret I cannot

comp:imeDt Mr. King on the manner inwhich he has discharged his duty, for hadMr. King communicated to the public theresult, of his interview with M. Chabert,both he and the company present wouldhave been spared the trouble and mortifica-tion of attending on this occasion. Buteven now M..Chabert is willing to acceptMr. King’s proposition with regard to the

dogs. However, as he declared to me onFriday the eighth of January, that he hadrepeatedly taken 60 drops of prussic acid ata dose, and that he would again take it at

his benefit, I mustinsistupon his compliance,or acknowledge at once that he has imposedupon the public and not taken it at all" (Loud,4pplause). .The tumult had now become deafening,

bnt was converted into roars of laughter,when M. Chabert, throwing himself into aridiculous attitude, returned the hootings ofthe audience with his utmost powers

ofvoice, and a considerable time elapsed be-fore Mr. Wakley could again obtain silence,for the purpose of putting two final ques-tions.Mr. WAKLEY.—" Will yon take the prus-

sic acid which I here offer to you ?"

M. CHABERT.—" Non, non, I do no vatoder ting but vat I promise ; I shall give depoison to de dogs."

Mr. WAKLEY.—" You can swallowoilat300°, will you drink a glass of water at212°?"

M.CHABERT.—" After you, Sare, is man-ners." (Roars of laughter.) " I will gieeyou von tumbler.’’—Mr. Wakley. " Indeedyou will not." (Continued laughter.)Mr. WAIC LEY.-" I ask, for the last time,

have you ever taken prussic acid as a partof your exhibition in these rooms?"

M. CHABERT. - "‘ I ha - excusa me,Sare." (Great disapprobation.)Mr. WAKLEY.—" Gentlemen, M. Clia.

bert not only declines taking the prussicacid, but he refuses to state whether he hasever taken it at all. This gross impositionthen is completely exposed, and it can no

longer disgrace the profession, or defraudthe public. (Loud applause.)M. Chabert, in the midst of deafening

clamour, said he would retire, for the pur.pose of giving the company tickets to ob.tain their money again. On making a pre-cipitate retreat, he was followed by a greatpart of the company; and having beenjostled down the stairs, and through the

passage, he was got into the street, where,finding the area-gate open, he ran down thesteps, and secreted himself in a coal, or

some other cellar, at the further end ofthe area.The principal actor being missing, the

room again became crowded, and loud callswere made for the return of the admission

money. Mr. Welsh at length presentedhimself, and informed the company thattickets would be distributed in the music-room below, for which money should be

given the next day. The music-room ac-

cordinglywas soon full of claimants, butcon-siderable numbers of people, attracted bythe tumult within, having entered from thestreet, the confusion that prevailed was in-describable, and great numbers retreatedfrom the affray, without preferring any de-mands upon the treasury."

To the above report we have only to add,that Monsieur Chabert has addressed a let-ter to The Times, in which he now coollyacknowledges that he has never taken prus-sic acid. He has evidentlv done this by

way of revenge for his exposure. He stilldeclares himself anxious to administerprussicacid to dogs, and he is yet more anxious toadminister a dose to Mr. Wakley. Hisgreat anxiety on the latter point is natnral,but Mr. Wakley has not had the generosatyto accede to the proposal. For au amplerefutation of the mistatements contained inthe letter of Monsieur Chabert, we haveonly to refer to the accurate report of the

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proceedings which was published in TheTimes on the day following the exposure.

LETTER FROM MR. KING.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

SIR,—ln consequence of an appeal inThe Times newspaper, I offered to decidethe question, whether or not M. Chabertcould pre’.’ent the effect of poisons by anti-dotes unknown to the medical profession.I declined proceeding to the test, partlybecause M. Chabert stated to me, that itwould interfere with the profits of an exhi-bitiun (which, for aught I know, is to a cer-tain degree worthy of public curiosity),without giving him the chance of remunera-tion for the promulgation of his pretendeddiscoveries, but principally because I judged,from the sudden silence of The Times inthe matter, that the public, like me, weresatisfied about the extent of M. Chabert’santidotal powers, whatever merit they mightattach to his performances.

I regret that the disappointment, rathertumultuously expressed this day, preventedthe experiment which I first proposed, andwhich I believe it was your intention to try.

Yours obediently,T. KING.

10, Hanover St., Hanover Square,Feb. 4th, 1830.

T. KING

MEETING OF SURGEON-APOTHE-CARIES.

LATE DECISION OF LORD TENTERDEN.

ON Wednesday evening last (the 10th),a second meeting of Surgeon-apothecarieswas held at the Freemasons’ Tavern, in pur-suance of the following advertisement whichappeared last week on the wrapper of thisJournal, and in the daily papers :-

" Triumph of Surgeon-Apothecaries.The Second Meeting to arrange the prelimi-naries for a Public Dinner to be held in cele-hrattoa of the decision of Lord Tenterdenin the cause of HAKDEY v. HENSON, willtake place at the Freemasons’ Tavern, onWednesday evening next, February the10th, at 8 o’clock precisely, when the at-tendance of all medical practitioners whotake an interest in the welfare and respect-amhty of the profession, is earnestly solt-cited."This meeting was attended by nearly fifty

gentlemen of the highest respectability, andthe warmest approbation of the measureproposed for commemorating the victoryobtained by MR. IIANDEY, was expressed.

In consequence of the unavoidable absence,up to half-past eight o’clock, of Mr. HenryStephens, the gentleman who presided at

the first meeting, Mr. Jarnes Scott of RegentStreet, was unanimously called to the chair.Mr. SCOTT opened the business of the

meeting by some excellent and very appro-priate remarks on the important- occasionon which they had met; and he trusted thatthey would not separate without takingsome decisive step towards confirming andestablishing that as a right, which had hi-therto been awarded to general practitionersonly as a mark of courtesy. He begged tosay, that with Mr. Handey he was totallyunacquainted, and lie therefore had no inte-rest but that which would be felt by anymember of the profession, in promoting theobject of the meeting. At the same time,however, he felt that Mr. Handey had beenthe means of achieving a most important vic-tory for the profession, and deserved a par-ticular mark of respect for his spirited con.duct. He had incurred no inconsiderablerisk in the action he had brought; forthough a verdict had been given in his fa-vour, it was impossible that he could avoidmany expenses which attached to legal pro-ceedings, and for which he must set himselfdown minus. Whether, also, he had pro-ceeded in the trial with a personal interestin view or not, he had accomplished his ob-ject in a most decisive manner. No medicalman had before obtained from the Bench, jsuch an opinion as that which had beengiven in the present case ; and he felt boundto say, that he considered Mr. Handey to beas much entitled to a mark of approbationfrom the profession, as though lie had actedsolely from public spirit. The result of thistrial, the Chairman continued, had esta-

, blished that they were now warranted toscharge for attendance, independently of the. quantity of medicine supplied, and the prac-titioner was raised by it from the rank of atradesman to that of the highest grade in

the profession; they were at once relievedfrom all the sources of uneasiness, vexation,and trick, which had hitherto annoyed and

- degraded them ; from practices which the- most conscientious of men had no means ofavoiding ; from a custom which either com-1 pelled a man to travel four, five, and siximiles, and then to charge eighteen pence forea a draught as his remuneration, or to resort to- a variety of mean contrivances as his com-) pensation, if he were compensated at all.The public, he was convinced, had long

felt the injustice and impropriety of thisstate of things; they could not avoid seeing

y tbat it was a serious wrong to men whose-d’ educations were expensive, and whose feel.e I ing-s were bound to he of the most honour-Y able and gentlemanLy kind. To carry home

to the public a full sense of the change which.


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