Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dr. John Martin Honingberger`s first visit to Lahore 1829-1833

On my arrival at Lahore, I found that the king, Runjeet Sing, with his army and the four French officers, was absent, having gone to-wards Peshawur ; but at the commencement of the rainy season, in the middle of June, they had all returned to Lahore, and I was well received. The first patient I had to attend, after my arrival at Lahore, and before I got public employment, was Achilles, an adopted son of General Allard. This boy was afflicted with a fistula on the spine,of long duration, and which had been several times superficially healed by the native surgeons. He was so reduced, that one could truly say, he was but skin and bone :•' Ossa atque pellis totus est," which of course rendered the case most difficult. I was convinced that my medical reputation depended upon this case. General Allard told me that the boy would die, if not attended to, that he could no longer bear to see him in that pitiful state, and urgently solicited my aid. He did not at that time imagine that his darling Achilles would outlive him; but the destiny of man lies hidden. Allard died at Peshawur, and was buried at Lahore; and Achilles returned from France to Lahore, where he also died, and was buried in the cemetery, near to General Allard's own tomb, which was in his adjacent garden.

I ventured to perform an operation, and that by force, for the boy made an obstinate resistance, when I placed him on a sofa. General Allard holding his arms and General Ventura his feet, while I made a cut along the fistulous sore, which caused him to be senseless for the following thirty- six hours, and to suffer with severe fever. My assiduous attendance accelerated the radical cure of the fistula, his strength visibly increased, and after a few months he regained his original plumpness, and, six years afterwards, when General Allard and his family arrived at Bordeaux,
where I then was, I was astonished at Achilles' healthy appearance. On his returning to Lahore a few years afterwards, in company with Benjamin Allard, who went to take possession of the estates of his deceased brother, and to whom he officiated as interpreter in the Indian language, he fell sick, and died under the treatment of the native physicians. I was much grieved at the unexpected intelligence of his death, and paid him the last honours, by attending his remains to the grave. To encourage the suppuration of the opened fistula, I employed a mild stimulating remedy, namely, cantharides infused in honey, on fist, twice a day, applied to the wound, by which it was soon cured. At the recommendation of General Allard, shortly afterwards, Rajah Suchet Sing, the younger brother of the minister, requested me to accompany him into the
mountains, to attend him there professionally, to which I readily agreed, as, in consequence of my recent illness, I was very weak, and the summer heat of Lahore was intolerable. Besides that, my friends, the generals, advised me to accept the offer on account of the great influence the
young Rajah Saheb possessed as one of the first personages at the court, and as by curing him I should establish my reputation.

Although my post was at that time not fixed, and consequently I did not depend on, nor was I subject to any one I nevertheless imagined that my departure for the mountains had met with the consent of Runjeet Sing. But it was not so. The young Rajah, who had a secret disease, had induced me privately to accompany him, whilst Runjeet Sing, in my four months' absence, inquired after me several times of General Avitabile, who had first introduced me to him. It was, probably, for that reason that he detained me for nine months without giving me my dismissal, or appointing me to any office. General Allard said to me one day, jesting, “It is very difficult to get an appointment here, but still more so to get one's dismissal, when once in office.'' He himself,
feeling an excessive longing to revisit his dear native land', after an absence of so many years, petitioned for a short leave of absence, which the sly Runjeet Sing repeatedly promised, but a long time elapsed before he obtained it.

On the third day after our starting for the mountains, we arrived at Suchetghur, at the foot of the hills, not far from Samba. We made our journey partly on horses, and partly on elephants. At that place, the rajah had his stables and cannon-foundry, and several new-cast cannons and mortars
were tried in his presence. One of the former burst, and a gulendas (Indian artilleryman) was stunned. The rajah requested me to examine the man, who complained of a violent pain on his right side, accompanied by severe shivering ; but, to the great astonishment of all the spectators, there was not the least trace of any external violence, whereupon the rajah himself, considering the case insignificant, opposed my wish to bleed him, and sent him some of his own mumiai. But at ten o'clock at night, about five hours after the accident had taken place, a messenger was
sent by the rajah requesting me to attend the man, and bleed him. I instantly complied, and found that he had been, according to the custom of the Hindoos, taken out of his charpai ( bed ) and laid on the floor where he expired in agony before I could give him any assistance. I do not know whether his liver was injured or not, a post-mortem examination not being allowed to be made; but it certainly was an extraordinary case, such as has never occurred during my medical practice of thirty years. His death must have been owing to a shock from the piece of hot metal, which,
in passing near him, had injured some important organ necessary to the support of life, as fright alone could not have caused such violent pains and so sudden a death,

From Suchetghur, we were conveyed in palanquins in two days, in the mountains, to Ramnuggur, where the rajah had, besides his castle, a fortress, in which his treasures were
concealed. We passed the rainy season on the hills; and in the autumn we descended, in order to witness the Duseire-feast at Umritsir. Thence, we went, with Runjeet Sing to Nadoun, on the Beas river, where the Maharajah married the two daughters of the famous Rajah Sansar Chund,
both orphans, and brought them to Lahore. We passed Jowalla-Meki, a sacred place in the eyes of the Hindoos, where there is a volcano. From thence, I travelled, with Rajah Suchet Sing, along the hills to Besouli, Jesrota, and Nurpore, where he was appointed receiver general of the revenues.

On my return to Lahore, I was informed, by General Allard, that a number of his dragoons had been bitten by a mad jackal in the night, while they were endeavouring to kill it. Several of the soldiers, who were seized with hydrophobia, had died, some of them in the barracks, and others on their way home. The general made me the offer of experimenting on some of the bitten soldiers, who had already applied for leave of absence, that they might die near their families. I consented to it, and eighteen men were placed under my care. I was happy to find, in consequence of my treatment, that not one of them was attacked by hydrophobia. Thereupon, General Allard recommended my mode of treating this malady to Dr. A. Murray, who was on a visit to Lahore with the political agent of Loodiana, Colonel Sir C. M. Wade. They both requested me to publish it for the benefit of suffering humanity, to which I agreed without any reserve; and it was read in a public assembly at Calcutta, July 2nd, 183 1, and published. I take
the liberty to introduce an extract : —

" Dr. Honigberger's object, in the treatment of hydrophobia, is to keep up a copious suppuration from the part bitten by the rabid animal, which he accomplishes, at first, by applying the actual cautery, and afterwards by using stimulants to the wound. He also administers a compound of mercury and extract of tobacco, in pills, until they produce a flow of urine ; and at the same time he recommends tincture of cantharides in an emulsion of bitter-almond to be repeatedly given, until a slight degree of dysuria is excited. Various other remedies and local applications are also
spoken of as useful in hydrophobia. It does not appear that any other person has yet made trial of some of the remedies proposed by Dr. Honigberger,"

This was my treatment twenty years ago, when I practised Alloeopathy ; but, since that period, I have made many interesting trials and experiments.

A short time after the publication of the above-mentioned method, I had a case where I tried, as a preventive, the endermic application, i. e,, I applied on the somewhat enlarged bitten part some extract of nux vomica, upon which the patient passed an unquiet night, dreaming of dogs
running after him. I thought it a bad omen, and regarded it as a symptom of the approach of hydrophobia ; and I did not rely on the local application only, but gave him also, internally, a pill of the same remedy ( extractum nuc. vomic. ) one grain, mixed with three grains of carbonate of
soda ; to which he considered he owed his recovery, as it caused an evacuation.

I introduced to our distinguished guests. Col. Wade and Dr. Murray, an Akalee or Nahung, whose nose, ears and hands had been cut off by order of Runjeet Sing (he had even deserved the gallows ), and whose nose had been so well restored in the mountains that we were all surprised,
and confessed it could not have been better done in Europe. As we know, from history, this operation was even in the remotest antiquity, practised by the Hindoos ; and they formed the nose out of the cuticle of the forehead, which proceeding is now, and always will be the same. In Europe, where cutting off of noses is only in use, in exceptional cases — as when ulceration or other circumstances make it requisite — this operation is usually performed with the cuticle of the arm, and judiciously too, as, according to our custom, the head mostly is uncovered, and a scar on one's forehead, with a new nose on the face, makes rather an ugly appearance ; whilst, in the East, the scar remains hidden beneath the turban.

In time of peace, the Nahungs gave a great deal of trouble to Runjeet Sing. On one occasion, he was even forced to place two pieces of cannon outside the Delhi Gate of Lahore, in the vicinity of Seidgenj, where the robbers congregate, because this band dared to intercept the communication of that city. They shut themselves up in Meea-Meer, five miles distant from Lahore, thence they made their appearance as rebels, but they were defeated, and forced to depart, and from the town also, to Umritsir. The individual just alluded to as deserving the gallows, had cut off the arm of a sentinel, for having prevented him from entering the tent of the king by a private entrance. The Nahung had a servant with him, who underwent no punishment, because he did not behave in an aggressive manner ; but the offender, by the order of Runjeet Singh, lost his ears, nose, and hands, by the same sabre with which he had so skilfully cut off the arm of the soldier on royal duty. After the sad execution, he ran to drown himself in a well, but was prevented by the people who were accidentally present. When the king was informed of the fact, the culprit was sent to me, and put under my care and medical attendance, with strict orders to watch him, to prevent his committing suicide, and to present him, when cured, to the king. According to his own statement, he was drunk with bhang ( hemp ) when he committed the
crime, and his only intention for intruding on the king had been to ask a gapa ( gift ). These robbers do not like to enter military service; they prefer begging, and living by pillage.

Rajah Heera Sing, son to the minister Dhyan Sing, who was a favourite of Runjeet Sing, was afflicted with diabetes, and we ( I and the five native physicians ) were consulted, at the palace garden of Hazooree Bagh, in the presence of Runjeet Sing, and on that occasion 1 made
mention of milk-sugar. As neither the Maharajah nor his physicians had ever heard of any sugar prepared from the milk of cows, they were curious to see a specimen of it, and I was ordered to prepare some in the gulab-haneh ( rose-watar house ), in the presence of the fakir, Noor-oo-Deen ; but they had scarcely patience to wait for its preparation, I produced some white and fine crystallized milk-sugar, which I presented in a box to Runjeet Sing, of which he gave a few pieces to a boy to taste, but he did not find it so sweet as cane-sugar, so no one spoke any more about it, and the milk scene was thus at its end. The gulab-haneh, where the rose-waters and the bedemusk ( aqua flor. salicis Babylon ), which they use as cooling beverages in the hot season,
were distilled, was the very place where I at first practised, and it was there I gave lessons in pharmacy and chemistry to the fakirs Aziz-oo-Deen and Noor-oo-Deen. The spirit produced from Cabul grapes, for the use of Runjeet Sing, was distilled in that place in my presence, by his own people, because every thing eatable or drinkable, destined for the Sikhs and Hindoos, must be prepared with their own hands, no Christian or Musselmaan being permitted to touch it, lest they should pollute it. There were also the royal magazines, under the care of Noor-oo-Deen, where I prepared different opiates, and many amusing metallic oxydes ( kooshtegee ), to please the fakir and Runjeet Sing, for which they held me in high estimation. Among others, I prepared some morphine, with a large dose of which the Maharaja would surely have killed a famous opium-eater, if I had not been consulted in time, and administered to him some antidotes. I thought it strange that no one at Lahore was aware of the existence of coffee, and its usefulness. Even the learned fakirs, Aziz-oo-Deen and Noor-oo-Deen ( brothers ), who were of Arab descent, knew coffee only from their books, under the denomination of bun, and the sample which I showed them in 1832, in the Durbar, was the first they had ever seen ; but when the
English arrived it became generally known. Neither had they any notion of our cantharides ; for which they substitute meloe telini, a fly of greater efficacy, containing more cantharidine than cantharides. They are seldom employed by the native physicians for blistering, although they know the utility of them in cases of hydrophobia.

Besides what had been mentioned on the effects of blistering in the description of my own disease, the following may likewise serve as a proof how beneficial that process is when properly employed, and it may, in some cases, even save a patient's life.

General C-- , had brought on a disease, by an external misapplication of mercury, while he was with the court at Umritsir. It was in the warm season, and on the fourth day after the application, he became so indisposed that my services were called into requisition. The native physicians
had previously administered different remedies, but without success. On examination, I found that the stomach and intestines were affected, which disturbed the functions of digestion, and caused a violent purging, with a burning of the anus; I commenced by bleeding him, and applying leeches; after which, the diarrhoea having been suppressed, an intermittent fever, exhibiting itself at various periods, of from three to seven days, was the consequence. Observing no improvement in the health of my patient, I conceived that the heat of the climate exercised an injurious influence over him, and that no hopes of his recovery could be entertained unless he were removed. I therefore solicited permission for him to remove to a cooler locality upon which we were sent to Deenanuggur, in the proximity of the mountains, to which place the Maharajah intended to retire with the court.

The disease having lasted three months, and the patient becoming weaker, he began to complain of a burning at the region of the heart; 1 tried to apply some leeches but I was obliged to cease, owing to his falling into a swoon. He daily grew worse and worse; and shortly after became
delirious, with his eyes open, and his feet cold. The officers of his brigade, who were accidentally present, shed tears for their general, whom they expected to lose. I freely confess, that I had no hope of his recovery, seeing that his strength was daily declining. In this desperate
state I applied three blisters, one on the nape of the neck, and the other two on the calves of his legs ; at the same time I gave him ray favorite opiate ( opium, camphor, ipecacuanha and tartar emetic ) : and he thus was saved. In the same night an eruption appeared, consisting of many thousand pustules, principally on the neck, shoulders, and groins. From that moment the disease visibly diminished ; his convalescence took a rapid course, and after a few weeks he was entirely recovered.

During the time of my patient's convalescence, Rajah Suchet Sing came down from the hills to Deenanuggur, as was supposed, to meet the court. One day, the kind Rajah Saheb invited me to accompany him in a boat, on a duck shooting excursion, on an extensive lake. As the rajah had
not his own parasol with him, I gave him mine out of politeness ; for as I was shooting, I did not want it. It was extremely hot, and I had nothing on me but a thin shirt, not even a waistcoat or jacket, so I was exposed to the burning rays of the sun for some hours, and the consequence was a severe coup-de-soleil. My friend C , on witnessing my state, despaired of my life, his " Tissot "
stating that a coup-de-soleil was extremely dangerous. But how great was his surprise, when he saw me recovering on the third day! Happily, the attack did not affect my head, but only one of my shoulders, and by applying leeches and poultices I recovered.

The king of England had at this time sent five immense horses as a present to Runjeet Sing. Alex. Burnes had brought them up the Indus, and they were much admired for their size and uncommon height. One of them was lost on the way, and another became the famous riding-horse of the Maharajah, who, being of a very low stature; appeared, when on the back of the animal, like an ape on an elephant. This horse fell sick, and although I had him immediately under my care, and spared no trouble, he became, like other dead animals, food for the dogs, carrion birds, and Pariahs, the lowest caste in India, who eat any animal, whatever may have been the cause of its death.

The horse had several ulcers on his legs, which having been healed by internal and external remedies, caused convulsions, and in that state he perished. I afterwards had other opportunities of curing similar ulcers with a simple remedy, according to ray medium system, namely, by la-
manaria saccharina ( probably because it contains iodine ), such ulcers being a kind of scrofula. This disease occurs very often in the Punjab, and the natives call it Zeherbadi (venomous swellings), as it ulcerates, and secretes a serous and corroding matter. By adhering to the same system,I also cured horses affected with glanders. Arsenic and dulcamara alternately administered, in small doses, in the morning and evening, proved very effective. The French
veterinary surgeons administer for this disease hydrochloric acid, which, diluted with water, they pour into the mouth of the horse, or use it as a local embrocation : this I learnt from the celebrated naturalist, Victor Jacquemont, on his visiting Lahore, en route to Cashmere, &c., and he declared glanders to be incurable. At Vienna, as in England, I believe, they kill at once horses affected with that disease.

During the congress of Rupore, on the frontier of India, I attended, at Wuzeerabad, the governor of that province, General Avitabile, who, having sprained his ankle, had called in the native surgeons, barbers and bunglers, and they had so assiduously applied irritating poultices and embrocations, that the leg became inflamed, and was approaching to mortification. Under my treatment, the patient recovered, and the leg was restored to its former functions. Subsequently, he was afflicted with a contraction of the muscles of the face, which, on account of his long, crooked nose, appeared the more striking; this disease ascribed to his immoderate- indulgence in champagne, which affected his brain. Although I cured him at that time, two years ago he died suddenly of apoplexy, from continuing the same excess, in his own country. Having acquired
immense riches, he returned to Europe, to enjoy in his native land ( Naples ) the fruits of his exertions, and there he died in the autumn of his life. Peace to his ashes! although many an unfortunate man was hung by his orders, at Wuzeerabad as well as at Peshawur, where he exercised his sway in a most arbitrary manner. The pleasure which he took in seeing people hung by dozens must be attributed to the affection of his brain. General Allard told me that the Maharajah once reprimanded him for having executed some musselmaans ; whom General
Avitabile had ordered to be hung because they were of opinion, that, under the- protection of a European governor they might be at liberty to eat beef! The opinion of Runjeet Sing was, that he ought to have imprisoned the criminals, and then allowed them to escape. It is well known, however, that General Avitabile was an active man; that he introduced many useful reforms
into the country, and was of good service to the English army on their march to Cabul. Living in his house for three years, I had an opportunity of knowing him well; I therefore, conclude with the proverb, "De mortuis nil nisi bonura ; " particularly so because I am indebted to him for the following important discovery :• — During the time I was performing the before-mentioned cures at Wuzeerabad, I lost, on a hunting excursion, a hare in the copses, which we thought to find in a burrow. Wishing to get the hare, I sent to a village for some bels (pokers), in order to enlarge the hole. We succeeded in doing so; but great was our astonishment when, instead of the hare, we caught a musk-deer, which diffused so strong an odour, that I was seized with a
headache, which lasted for three days. The man who dragged him out, was so frightened at finding an 'animal previously unknown to him, that he instantly threw it down, and our hounds bit it so violently that it was nearly killed. Having taken it home, I was advised by General Avitabile to cut off the musk-bag, which I did, and keep to this day ; it being considered that un-
less that operation is performed previously to the death of the animal, the useful substance of the musk-deer will entirely disappear ; the rest of the animal was regarded as useless, which I now regret, believing that it was the most valuable specimen I ever met with, as I have never heard of such animals being found in the plains of India. Those to whom I showed the musk-bag in
Europe, suggested that the animal had found his way there from the Himalaya, and it might have been so ; but the odour and appearance of the musk of Cashmere and Thibet is quite different. The exterior of the bag of this animal resembles that of the musk of China, it has smooth, soft, and short hair ; but the interior is a yellowish brown mass, as hard as bees-wax, whereas, the Chinese musk is of a reddish-brown colour, and in grains of a friable nature. Without having prepared the bag, I put It into an iron box, and found that in the rainy season the insects had destroyed the external hair, without having touched the internal parts. The musk has, like that of
China, a strong, agreeable scent.

I thought that where one animal was found, more of the same race ought to exist, but I could not purchase any of a similar description. I now regret not having examined the hole where the precious animal was caught, as its companion might have been there, neither did I preserve the skin. Still I hope that the publication of this incident will induce English sportsmen in India to try to obtain the prize which escaped me, although the animal must be very rare, as neither the native physicians nor the druggists possess any knowledge of it. When in search of them, it ought to be considered that these interesting creatures are shy, prefer solitude, and live in copses, where their holes are made deep in the ground, beneath bushes, and thus they are saved from total extermination. Many naturalists are of opinion that the subject in question might perhaps have been another kind of animal, which possessed the same odour, just as different plants emit a similar scent. The exultation I felt on having found a real musk-deer, caused me to neglect
making a proper examination of its characteristic marks, its prominent tusks — being satisfied with the scent. To the best of my recollection, the size was that of a hare, and it was of a slender cylindric frame.

Whilst I was residing at Wuzeerabad, a young Hindoo lady ( katretee ) came to call on General Avitabile with presents, as a token of her gratitude for his having preserved her from the fate of a Suttee, i. e., being burnt alive with the body of her deceased husband ; which proves that many
of these victims of Brahminism feel en aversion to that horrid ceremony. The woman confessed, that on the day of the burning of her husband, and in her extreme grief, she was ready to sacrifice her life, hoping to enter paradise with her partner, but that now she felt more happy at
having been preserved.

Runjeet Sing related to me that Dr. Allen (an American, and governor of Goojerat ) used secretly to employ his time in his fortress in the practice of alchymy. I could not forbear laughing at the idea of his expecting to convert common metals into gold, as the conversion of quicksilver
into silver was found to be quite impossible. Subsequently, my assertion was verified by the discovery he made, that the doctor's alchymy consisted in manufacturing false coin. Runjeet Sing reposed much confidence in me, and insisted on my accepting the command of an artillery department, or the office of governor of a province, like the Generals Ventura, Avitabile, and Dr. Allen ; this, however, I refused, deeming that I had not sufficient abilities to execute such
an office properly ; but upon his giving me the choice, I accepted the management of a gunpowder manufactory and also a gun-stock establishment. Notwithstanding my numerous occupations, which were very lucrative, I was affected with nostalgy, i. e., I felt an irresistible longing to visit my native country, which I had not seen for many years, to such a degree, that my sole thoughts and endeavors were how to secure my return home. I was so occupied
with this idea, that if they had offered me the Koh-i-noor ( which is valued at half-a-million ) to remain there for the remainder of my life, I should have refused it. General Allard's words ; “ It is difficult to get an appointment here, but, when obtained, it is still more difficult to quit it," were continually in my thoughts, and it cost me much trouble to obtain my dismissal, or rather my liberty.

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