We announced just over a month ago the donation by Dr. Donald Trunkey, M.D., of a manuscript letter from Dominique-Jean Larrey to the Historical Collections & Archives. Today, we received two more Larrey letters from Dr. Trunkey. One to Larrey's daughter, Isaure, was written at Edinburgh on 8 July 1826 and tells of his tour with his son Felix-Hippolyte through the British Isles visiting fellow physicians. The other, to an unnamed friend, was written on 23 October 1832 and is a breezy letter filled with household news and updates on his daily routine.
It never ceases to amaze me how letters of long ago can reflect concerns, delights, and observations on the human condition that resonate with modern readers, erasing the intervening years and setting us squarely into another place and time. Overwork! The horrors of remodeling! Who can't relate to that?Scans and translations are included here for easy reference. As always, queries are welcome.
At Edinburgh 8 July 1826
My dear Isaure, here we are since last night, in the capital of Scotland although we had stops in all the big cities we passed through we covered the great distance separating us from the Island with great speed. Our prompt departure was not watched without regret in Dublin and in the cities where we stopped, such as Liverpool, Chester and Glasgow. Nothing can compare to the consideration, care, and fond attention that all the principal physicians of all these cities lavished on us. It seemed as if they had been warned of our arrival in each of these places. Because hardly had we set foot in one of their hospitals, but a few minutes later, all the doctors, young and old, were assembled there. All the cities interested us greatly, both for the beautiful monuments they possess and by the high level of perfection attained by their factories--we saw some of immense richness which worked with admirable precision and order. Up to now, providence has sent superb weather to accompany us, and has kept us from accidents. Hyppolite is doing marvelously well, and now can be understood very well in English. We probably embarrassed ourselves the first few days. However, luck always helped us out, and with the help of my German and Italian we managed to get by.
My son has probably told you in much greater detail everything that we saw. Many things, no doubt, should have interested us, but some truly surprised us, and that alone made the trip worthwhile. We must also preserve the memory of the generous and friendly reception given us by all the doctors everywhere we went.
We have already wandered through a good part of this capital, which seems enormous to us, its streets like those of all the cities of England are of great beauty. There are also superb monuments, the palace of art is especially remarkable for its architecture, its beautiful lines and the natural history collection it holds. We saw some of the rarest animals there which are not at all in our museum in Paris, such as among others the white bear of the polar lands which Captain Darry brought back from his second trip to the Baffin Sea. It is approximately equal in size to the [missing text] elephant from Africa which is next to [missing text]. Hyppolite [sic] was happy to have seen this museum, and he'll tell you about it in detail.We still haven't seen but one young doctor which chance had us meet when leaving the inn. He had seen me in Paris, he insisted on taking us everywhere, but on our return to the inn, we found visiting cards from all the [persons?] of the city, and invitations for tomorrow and the day after. We are going to devote these two extra days to seeing everything of interest in this city that we haven't yet seen. We leave again for London on Monday, passing through several other notable towns I would like to see. We hope nevertheless to be in London the 15th or 16th at the latest. I am impatient to get your letters there, and to get news about everything that interests me. I believe that following my example, you will not have remained in the apartment during the remodeling you are having done. This stay would be dangerous because of the paint fumes. Watch yourself then, and keep your good health, don't forget.
Your best friend, who holds you dear, Larrey.
Even though you haven't sent me any news, I will still send you what I've received from my son, who probably already left for Belgium, since it seems the army is supposed to be there starting today, the 22nd, to the first of Brumaire. I nevertheless believe that in combat, if this army were to have as many killed as wounded, there would be no deaths.
Everything is turning out well in general to make him happy, and circumstances favor his ventures and should fulfill his wishes.
When you write to him, suggest he go see M. Dair for me in Brussels, to ask that he please remember me to King Leopold--on the matter of the advances I'd made to the ambassador. I am also sending you a letter from M. Revillon announcing his upcoming arrival in Paris with his wife. I am also sending you a letter from [Z?]. I did as he requested for his nephew. Isaure would do well to urge Hippolyte to write to M. Desgenettes and Fauche on the occasion of his nomination to the Val de Grace, one of the most advantageous and honorable posts of all the hospitals in Paris--it's the one held by M. Begin for nearly 20 years.
I'm sorry you locked up the portraits of the Turk and myself, because the gallant M. Nouene, who brought these pictures, made a useless trip. If you have a chance, send me the key to the room where you locked them up, and I will have them hung.
I am going to send for about ten wooden tracks to take advantage of the good weather--and if it keeps up until Sunday, I will be able to come see you--with this in mind, I wouldn't mind finding some animal to hunt, I'll bring my rifle--
I have secured some favors for M. [S?] Lacroix.
I really wish someone would return the furniture from the room Hippolyte rented in town, it's useless to pay the rent--anyway, I hope to find him one in Mornay or Luxembourg, so when you arrive you should stop paying for this spot--
My tasks at the hospital have gradually increased, and I haven't been able to given myself even a quarter hour to take care of my cough which also worsens daily with my jobs at the Conseil de Sante, the [?] institute.
I can't write to Hippolyte now, send him my love. With find regards from your dearest friend, Larrey. 23 October 1832.