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To attest to posterity,
What he availed,
Hugh Chamberlen, thus eloquently panegyrised, was born in London, during the year 1664. He studied at Cambridge, and from that university obtained his diploma of M. D. đuring the year 1680. Settling in business at London, he chiefly devoted himself to midwifery; and soon enjoyed the reputation of being among the first of our physicians who snatched that important branch of practice from the hands of the ignorant and vulgar, and relieved its dangers by judicious treatment and experimental elucidation. He invented the obstetrical forceps, one of the most valuable instruments retained in surgery, by means of which the life of a mother is often saved, when the position in which the infant lies, or the largeness of its head, obstructs a delivery. With this invention he repaired to Paris in 1672, anticipating great honour and reward, but unfortunately for his hopes, at the very first accouchment he was called to, a malformation in the woman brought on immediate death, and the French Doctors exulted so much over him-observing that he was much mistaken if he thought it was as easy to deliver a Frenchwoman as an English woman that he hurried away from them overpowered with shame. In Holland, however, he was more successful: he imparted his secret to some medical men at Amsterdam, and received several handsome presents in return. At "last, he settled in London, and obtained great practice and a large fortune.
When Mary of Modena, the second wife of James II., was taken with the pains of labour, Chamberlen was called in to her assistance, and brought the future Pretender into the world. Of this birth he addressed an account to the Princess Sophia of Hanover, with the view of discrediting the rumours of the multitude, who represented that the pregnancy was simulated, . and by consequence the child supposititious. In 1695, he dis
Quæ quid ab illo præstitum sit
played the versatility of his talents, by proposing some plans for a national land bank, which, though patronised by some, were never approved of by the public. As an author, Dr. Chamberlen is known by the translation of a Treatise on Midwifery, from the French of Mauriceau, which was well received by the faculty, and has run through several editions since the period of his death. · Upon the face of this rapid summary it is apparent, that the
sumptuary honours of Dr. Chamberlen's tomb have been deserved by no other memorials than one surgical invention and one translation. With respect to his forceps, which has been much simplified and improved by Smellie and others, it should be remembered, that he attributed its discovery conjointly to his father, his brothers, and himself—an honourable admission, from which, however, the former parties have derived no reputation, inasmuch as the father, by making no mention of it in his “Midwives' Guide,' a miserable performance, published in 1665, has been adjudged ignorant of the resource; and his sons, by being remembered for no merit whatever, have been considered incapable of the production. In conclusion, as to the version of Mauriceau's 'Observations sur la Grossesse,'—the book is generally reputed the best at that time extant upon the subject in English; but that merit is principally ascribable to the original–a truth of which the Frenchman, who was not a little jealous, seems to have been thoroughly sensible, for he asserted with indelicate vanity, that Chamberlen learned all he know of his profession from those pages.
EPHRAIM CHAMBERS, F.R.S.
Common to many,
Known by few, ...
Neither learned nor simple,
Here wished to rest
Such is the sense of an epitaph expressed in good Latin,* . on a marble tablet, executed by R. Hedges, in the north cloister of Westminster Abbey; and had it also informed 'the reader that the subject of it was the compiler of the first Cyclopædia edited in Great Britain, it might be quoted as the most valuable and perfect specimen of necrological composition upon record. For, although the name of Chambers is deservedly well-known, although his literary exertions have
* Multis pervulgatus
Nec eruditus nec Idiota,
Hic requiescere voluit,
Obiit xv. Maii, MDCCXL.
always been duly estimated and although his existence is almost within the memory of man, yet is there little known of him but what is briefly comprised in the preceding lines, the which, be it remarked, are his own composition. Thus his epitaph is, in strict truth, the only summary of his life; and the meagre additions that can be tacked to it can only be considered as a commentary upon the text.
One only account of him has been written; it is given in the Biographia Britannica, and the following particulars are therefore solely compressed from that valuable work. He was born at Kendal, in the county of Westmorland, but in what year has not hitherto been ascertained. His parents were quakers, and he was bred up to their religious tenets, though he never appears, when arrived at maturity, either to have professed or observed them; nor, indeed, to have attached much consequence to any sect or particular creed. Neither the place nor the nature of his first education are known, but it seems reasonable to infer from the modest persuasion of his family, that it included no greater accomplishments than are generally considered necessary for a mercantile life. It has been asserted, however, that he was for a short time under the tuition of the learned Doctor Watson. He was apprenticed to Senex, a globe-maker, in London, and during his residence with that skilful mechanic is said to have imbibed the partiality for scientific pursuits, which so significantly distinguished the maturity of his career. Here again we are uninformed, whether he remained with his master during the whole period of his apprenticeship, or whether he left him before the expiration of that term. Still the conjecture has been hazarded that he served out the usual time; and not only digested the project of a general Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, but actually wrote several of the articles for it behind his counter. From the same tenour of things, it has been held probable, that he founded his knowledge of the sciences, and cultivated a general style of composition during his apprenticeship; and that discovering the iniatory sources of literary emolument, through the medium of the periodical publications, he was fortunate enough to establish such a connexion with them, as enabled him to enter upon the cares of authorship, without any idea of being 'obliged to derive a subsistence from trade.
The first independent residence Chambers is known to have possessed was at apartments in Gray's Inn, London ; and in them he continued to abide during the remainder of his days. The first edition of his Cyclopædia appeared, in 2 vols. folio, during the year 1728, though the dedication to the king bears the earlier date of October the 15th, 1727. It was published by subscription, at four guineas a set, and raised the author so high in reputation, that he had the honour of being elected into the Royal Society on the 6th of November, 1729. Ten years passed away before a second impression, with additions and corrections, was called for, but the subsequent editions succeeded with a more creditable rapidity; for the third was required in 1630, the very year after the second; the fourth in 1741, and the fifth in 1749.
The sale of a work is the sure proof of its value, and no bad one of its merits: from the foregoing statemnent, therefore, it may properly be affirmed, that Chambers deserved considerable praise. The conception was not entirely original in our language; for Harris's Lexicon Technicum, though more confined in its plan, and compressed in its size, preceded the Cyclopedia with popular success. Neither can it be admitted that Chambers was a man of the fittest capacity for improving this example. Nevertheless, if we are to believe (and there appears no evidence to the contrary before us) that he was a self-taught scholar, we must then award him the meed of piercing and even original talents ; while in gratitude we are bound to respect him, for presenting to his countrymen a most useful publication in a form so commanding, that minds of greater power made the undertaking complete as soon as a decent opportunity permitted. The most disparaging censure pronounced against it is, that it was a servile compilation; and that there is some truth in the charge cannot be denied, though the editors of the French Encyclopedie, who urged it with the greatest acrimony, made it with the least grace. Chambers certainly extracted and copied without any scrupulosity, but he did not pilfer from his rivals; whereas the French compilers were nearly as free in drawing without acknowledgment from their native authors, as he was in making use of his own countrymen. Chambers borrowed at home because there the loan was most easily effected, and the French, because they detected in his pages a large mass of materials which their own praiseworthy production contained, imme