Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frogs Croaking

Alexander Crichton, An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement, Vol. II (London: Printed for T. Cadell, Junior, and W. Davies, in the Strand, 1798), pp. 447-449:
A youth was tempted, one day in Spring, to bathe himself in fresh water, just about the period when the frogs begin to spawn. He dived several times, and, on coming out of the water, observed the spawn of the frogs. He immediately imagined he must have swallowed some of it; and this idea made so strong an impression on his mind, that he afterwards believed young frogs were generated in his stomach and intestines, which lived on the meat and drink he swallowed. Some years afterwards he began to study medicine, probably with the view of curing himself. He prosecuted his studies with assiduity for seven years; and after having travelled through Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, he obtained his degrees with much applause. Many were the remedies he tried to kill and expell his imaginary frogs; and, wherever he went, he consulted the first physicians of the place on his case.

On his return from Italy, in the year 1609, he committed his health to my care. I endeavoured to convince him that his complaint was mere flatulency, and that the sudden propulsion of the wind, from one part of the intestines to the other, occasioned the noise. He argued strongly against this opinion, and tried to persuade me that it was not wind, but the voice of real frogs which he heard. He argued himself into a great passion in my presence, and asked me if I did not hear the frogs croak? He contended, also, that the presence of the frog was demonstrated by its movements in the stomach; for when it was hungry it moved and jumped about, and was never still until it was fed. I thought of giving him a purge, and of causing a live frog to be put into the close stool, in order to free him from his conceit. But, as he was well acquainted with medicine, he was full as cunning as myself.

He requested I would order him such remedies as were efficacious in killing insects, worms, serpents and toads. But, although I obeyed his request in this, and gave him such remedies for upwards of a quarter of a year, no frog appeared. I was at last tired, and told him his error in as strong language as I could; endeavouring to convince him, by argument, that if a frog had got into his stomach it could not live. He began, at last, to be convinced of the error he was in, and thanked me for my pains.

PLATERI, Obs. lib. i. p. 43.
The reference is to Felix Platter (1536-1614), Observationes (Basel, 1614).

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