The Clements Library website includes events, exhibits, subject guides, newsletter issues, library staff, and more.

Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » Confronting Mortality » Theodore Beardsley Letter to Wells Beardsley, April 4, 1808

Theodore Beardsley Letter to Wells Beardsley, April 4, 1808

Dr. Theodore Beardsley to Dr. Wells Beardsley, Grand Isle, North Hero Island (in Lake Champlain), Vermont: April 4, 1808. Theodore and Wells Beardsley Letters.

              April 4th. 1808
      When I wrote the within I tho’t to have sent it by Mail.  But when I was at your brother’s yesterday, I received information of his setting out for Connecticut this week, which induc’d me to subjoin this Wrapper.

      Notes taken of a Case Feby. 4th.
To day I have to mourn the loss of a Patient – A beautiful little Girl aged four years.  She died this morning about 8 O’Clock, & on the 5th. day of her illness.  The child became indispos’d on Saturday morning.  She arose at day-break, complaind of a pain in her bowels, attended with the precursory symptoms of fever; had two or three very small mucous stools follow’d by tenesmus of no long continuance. – On the Afternoon of this day I was call’d upon to visit the child.  When I arriv’d I found the little Innocent grappling with a most scorching fever.  The abdominal region was somewhat swollen, giving exquisite pain upon pressure.  The pulse was quick, hard & small; tongue f[ ]’d, thirst intense, surface of the body dry & husky. – The child wore the visage of death, even at this early hour – The eyes had retreated back into their sockets, look’d glassy; the nostrils were pinch’d &c.  At intervals the patient seem’d to doze with half-clos’d eyes.  She was ever scratching her head, picking her eyes, nose or mouth.  After an examination, I concluded the disease was Enteritis combind with lumbrici – told my opinion of the child’s imminent danger & wish’d for immediate counsel. – An Old but meritorious physician was call’d to my aid.  We agreed in the name of the disease, but not wholly in the Methodus Medendi.  I propos’d venesection.  To this he objected.  I bow’d with submission to his Silver Locks.  It was agreed, at length, to feed the child with a pretty strong decoction of pink & senna, to be follow’d in due with castor oil.  Carminitive [Carminative] &

febrifuge medicines were to be interspersd occasionaly. – On the 2d. day I found the stomach to be extremely irritable. But a small share of the spigella [spigelia] infusion & castor oil had been retain’d. No stools had yet been procur’d. No moisture had yet appeard on any part of the body. In short ev’ry symptom had become aggravated. Drink, drink was the incessant cry of the patient. To calm the commotions of the stomach (for the vomiting of bilious matter, with whatever had been taken in, had become almost constant) I gave Elix. Paragor. & applied an Epispartic between the shoulders. After this I administer’d Calomel with liberal hand. To aid the intention of forcing a passage thro’ the intestines, warm bath, semicupium & injections were successively & faithfully tried. But every avenue to life was completely bar’d, forever shut. Every Medicine as soon as swallow’d was ejected from the stomach. On the 3d. day I pronounc’d the patient irrecoverable & requested dismission. But being warmly importun’d by the tearful parents, I continued to visit the child, until Atropos, with his cruel shears, cut the thread of life, & put an end to the gloomy scene of suffering. To day the vomiting put on a darker complexion. Pulse quicker & weaker, continuing to decline to the end. On the 4th day the efforts to vomit had become fruitless. To day, & on the 5th. involuntary stools – black & of a cadaverous smell. With the liberty of the parents I open’d the defunct. The first thing I observ’d was a white gelatinous matter exuded upon the surface of the peritonaeum & all the intestines. The guts were stuff’d with worms. The internal coats of the somach were completely perforated in many places. The pylorus & superior part of the duodenum were almost clos’d. There was an Intus Susceptis of the colon.
     Some Remarks upon this if you please.
          Theodore Beardsley