Health and Education
by Charles Kingsley
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He may have felt that he was falling behind in the race of science, and that it was impossible for him to carry on his studies in Madrid; and so, angry with his own laziness and luxury, he may have felt the old sacred fire flash up in him, and have determined to go to Italy and become a student and a worker once more.

The very day that he set out, Clusius of Arras, then probably the best botanist in the world, arrived at Madrid; and, asking the reason of Vesalius' departure, was told by their fellow-countryman, Charles de Tisnacq, procurator for the affairs of the Netherlands, that Vesalius had gone of his own free will, and with all facilities which Philip could grant him, in performance of a vow which he had made during a dangerous illness. Here, at least, we have a drop of information, which seems taken from the stream sufficiently near to the fountain-head: but it must be recollected that De Tisnacq lived in dangerous times, and may have found it necessary to walk warily in them; that through him had been sent, only the year before, that famous letter from William of Orange, Horn, and Egmont, the fate whereof may be read in Mr. Motley's fourth chapter; that the crisis of the Netherlands which sprung out of that letter was coming fast; and that, as De Tisnacq was on friendly terms with Egmont, he may have felt his head at times somewhat loose on his shoulders; especially if he had heard Alva say, as he wrote, "that every time he saw the despatches of those three senors, they moved his choler so, that if he did not take much care to temper it, he would seem a frenzied man." In such times, De Tisnacq may have thought good to return a diplomatic answer to a fellow-countryman concerning a third fellow-countryman, especially when that countryman, as a former pupil of Melancthon at Wittemberg, might himself be under suspicion of heresy, and therefore of possible treason.

Be this as it may, one cannot but suspect some strain of truth in the story about the Inquisition; perhaps in that, also, of his wife's unkindness; for, whether or not Vesalius operated on Don Carlos, he had seen with his own eyes that miraculous Virgin of Atocha at the bed's foot of the prince. He had heard his recovery attributed, not to the operation, but to the intercession of Fray, now Saint, Diego; {408} and he must have had his thoughts thereon, and may, in an unguarded moment, have spoken them.

For he was, be it always remembered, a Netherlander. The crisis of his country was just at hand. Rebellion was inevitable, and, with rebellion, horrors unutterable; and, meanwhile, Don Carlos had set his mad brain on having the command of the Netherlands. In his rage at not having it, as all the world knows, he nearly killed Alva with his own hands, some two years after. If it be true that Don Carlos felt a debt of gratitude to Vesalius, he may (after his wont) have poured out to him some wild confidence about the Netherlands, to have even heard which would be a crime in Philip's eyes. And if this be but a fancy, still Vesalius was, as I just said, a Netherlander, and one of a brain and a spirit to which Philip's doings, and the air of the Spanish court, must have been growing even more and more intolerable. Hundreds of his country folk, perhaps men and women whom he had known, were being racked, burnt alive, buried alive, at the bidding of a jocular ruffian, Peter Titelmann, the chief inquisitor. The "day of the mau-brulez," and the wholesale massacre which followed it, had happened but two years before; and, by all the signs of the times, these murders and miseries were certain to increase. And why were all these poor wretches suffering the extremity of horror, but because they would not believe in miraculous images, and bones of dead friars, and the rest of that science of unreason and unfact, against which Vesalius had been fighting all his life, consciously or not, by using reason and observing fact? What wonder if, in some burst of noble indignation and just contempt, he forgot a moment that he had sold his soul, and his love of science likewise, to be a luxurious, yet uneasy, hanger-on at the tyrant's court; and spoke unadvisedly some word worthy of a German man?

As to the story of his unhappy quarrels with his wife, there may be a grain of truth in it likewise. Vesalius' religion must have sat very lightly on him. The man who had robbed churchyards and gibbets from his youth was not likely to be much afraid of apparitions and demons. He had handled too many human bones to care much for those of saints. He was probably, like his friends of Basle, Montpellier, and Paris, somewhat of a heretic at heart, probably somewhat of a pagan. His lady, Anne van Hamme, was probably a strict Catholic, as her father, being a councillor and master of the exchequer at Brussels, was bound to be; and freethinking in the husband, crossed by superstition in the wife, may have caused in them that wretched vie a part, that want of any true communion of soul, too common to this day in Catholic countries.

Be these things as they may—and the exact truth of them will now be never known—Vesalius set out to Jerusalem in the spring of 1564. On his way he visited his old friends at Venice to see about his book against Fallopius. The Venetian republic received the great philosopher with open arms. Fallopius was just dead; and the senate offered their guest the vacant chair of anatomy. He accepted it: but went on to the East.

He never occupied that chair; wrecked upon the Isle of Zante, as he was sailing back from Palestine, he died miserably of fever and want, as thousands of pilgrims returning from the Holy Land had died before him. A goldsmith recognised him; buried him in a chapel of the Virgin; and put up over him a simple stone, which remained till late years; and may remain, for aught I know, even now.

So perished, in the prime of life, "a martyr to his love of science," to quote the words of M. Burggraeve of Ghent, his able biographer and commentator, "the prodigious man, who created a science at an epoch when everything was still an obstacle to his progress; a man whose whole life was a long struggle of knowledge against ignorance, of truth against lies."

Plaudite: Exeat: with Rondelet and Buchanan. And whensoever this poor foolish world needs three such men, may God of his great mercy send them.


{15} 9, Adam Street, Adelphi, London.

{72} I quote from the translation of the late lamented Philip Stanhope Worsley, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

{76} Odyssey, book vi. 127-315; vol. i. pp. 143-150 of Mr. Worsley's translation.

{88} Since this essay was written, I have been sincerely delighted to find that my wishes had been anticipated at Girton College, near Cambridge, and previously at Hitchin, whence the college was removed: and that the wise ladies who superintend that establishment propose also that most excellent institution—a swimming bath. A paper, moreover, read before the London Association of Schoolmistresses in 1866, on "Physical Exercises and Recreation for Girls," deserves all attention. May those who promote such things prosper as they deserve.

{256} For an account of Sorcery and Fetishism among the African Negros, see Burton's 'Lake Regions of Central Africa,' vol. ii. pp. 341-360.

{304} An arcade in the King's School, Chester.

{328} So says Dr. Irving, writing in 1817. I have, however, tried in vain to get a sight of this book. I need not tell Scotch scholars how much I am indebted throughout this article to Dr. David living's erudite second edition of Buchanan's Life.

{343} From the quaint old translation of 1721, by "A Person of Honour of the Kingdom of Scotland."

{358} A Life of Rondelet, by his pupil Laurent Joubert, is to be found appended to his works; and with it an account of his illness and death, by his cousin, Claude Formy, which is well worth the perusal of any man, wise or foolish. Many interesting details beside, I owe to the courtesy of Professor Planchon, of Montpellier, author of a discourse on 'Rondelet et ses Disciples,' which appeared, with a learned and curious Appendice, in the 'Montpellier Medical' for 1866.

{390} I owe this account of Bloet's—which appears to me the only one trustworthy—to the courtesy and erudition of Professor Henry Morley, who finds it quoted from Bloet's 'Acroama,' in the 'Observationum Medicarum Rariorum, lib. vii.,' of John Theodore Schenk. Those who wish to know several curious passages of Vesalius' life, which I have not inserted in this article, would do well to consult one by Professor Morley, 'Anatomy in Long Clothes,' in 'Fraser's Magazine' for November, 1853. May I express a hope, which I am sure will be shared by all who have read Professor Morley's biographies of Jerome Cardan and of Cornelius Agrippa, that he will find leisure to return to the study of Vesalius' life; and will do for him what he has done for the two just-mentioned writers?

{392} Olivarez' 'Relacion' is to be found in the Granvelle State Papers. For the general account of Don Carlos' illness, and of the miraculous agencies by which his cure was said to have been effected, the general reader should consult Miss Frere's 'Biography of Elizabeth of Valois,' vol. i. pp. 307-19.

{408} In justice to poor Doctor Olivarez, it must be said, that while he allows all force to the intercession of the Virgin and of Fray Diego, and of "many just persons," he cannot allow that there was any "miracle properly so called," because the prince was cured according to "natural order," and by "experimented remedies" of the physicians.


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