This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
With these collected stores he returned to the United States early in 1875, and set to work with his wonted energy. A new and much enlarged edition of the "Thera-peutics" was sent to press; a "Handbook of Popular Medicine," designed to give, in simple language, the domestic treatment of disease, the rules for nursing the sick, selected receipts for diet and medicinal purposes, and the outlines of anatomy and physiology, was put in the hands of a pub-Usher ; a Synopsis of Pharmacy and Materia Medica, a work of enormous labor, was well under way; and other literary projects were actively planned; when, suddenly, the summons came which, in an instant, with the shears of fate, slit the strand of this activity. The rest of the story may be told in the words of the biographer appointed by the Medical Society of the County of Philadelphia to prepare a memoir of his life :-
"While earnestly laboring to prepare for the press his literary collections, he suffered a severe blow by the sudden death of a person to whom he was deeply attached. Overwork and this emotional shock produced a result likely enough to occur in one of his ardent temperament. One afternoon, while engaged in writing, he fell, unconscious, from his chair, and for several days lay in a very critical condition. On recovering his powers, it was evident his brain had suffered a serious lesion. The old energy and love of labor had completely gone; even the capacity for work seemed absent. Marked melancholy followed, characterized before long by avoidance of friends and the loss of a desire of life. This occurred with increasing force until it led to his death, on July 1, 1876, through some toxic agent, the nature of which was not ascertained.
"Thus early, and thus sadly, terminated a career of unusual brilliancy and promise.
"It is probable that much that he has written will be read with pleasure and instruction by future generations; and the memory of his genial disposition, his entertaining conversation, and earnest sense of professional honor, will long be cherished by those of his contemporaries who enjoyed his friendship." - Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, vol. xi, p. 720.
Various tributes were paid to his memory by the societies with which he was connected, and by the scientific journals to which he had been a contributor. One of these, after narrating some of the circumstances attending his decease, spoke as follows: -
"Thus did our unfortunate associate close his short but brilliant career. The emotions, the tender sentiments he has described with such a magical pen, he felt himself with an unmatched keenness. They mastered his whole frame with an intensity surpassing all romance. His descriptions of the passions, descriptions which have been the wonder of thousands, such is their fire and temper, were not rheto-rical studies, but the ebullition of a soul sensitive to their lightest breath, and not shunning their wildest tempests.
"The genius which dictated the lines he has left us is not to be judged by the conventionalities which suit the cold temperaments of ordinary men; there is a strong vein of egotism in most devotion ; but here was one who felt, 'all is lost, when love is lost.' "
This extract well sets forth the extraordinary depth of his sentiments, and the fervor of his feelings. It may be added that these mental traits were not generally ascribed to him by casual or ordinary associates. He was, in manners and bearing, evidently not one who sought friendships or displayed to the general gaze the current of his thoughts. Consequently, of intimates he had but few, and was considered by those whose intercourse with him was superficial, to be much more of an intellectual than of an emotional type of character.
This impression was doubtless increased by the strongly practical turn of his mind, which is conspicuous in all his works. He was the reverse of a dreamer and had little patience with theorists. In his professional study he always aimed at bringing into the strongest bight the utilitarian aspect of medicine, its ameliorating power on humanity, its real efficacy in preserving or restoring health and limiting human misery. On this his theory of therapeutics was based, and, inspired by the same opinions, he was one of the most earnest advocates of the day of popularizing medical science in all its branches among the masses. In this effort he was at times severely criticised by that class of physicians - and they are by no means extinct - who think that medicine should be wrapped in mystery, and that the people should be kept in ignorance of themselves and of their own physical frailties, to the utmost possible extent. With these learned obscurantists Dr. Napheys had no patience, and naturally found but slight favor. Fortunately, they were in the decided minority, and, we are happy to add, even that minority is daily decreasing.
Of the various learned societies to which he was attached may be mentioned the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, and the Gynecological Society of Boston. His election as Corresponding Member to the latter body (which is an association of scientific men who make an especial study of the hygiene and diseases of women) took place shortly after the first publication of the Physical Life of Woman, and was meant as a direct tribute of respect to him as the author of that work, thus obtaining for it the testimony of the highest body in that specialty then existing in our land.
The general plan on which Dr. Napheys prepared his sanitary writings was one eminently calculated to reconcile those who were most opposed to instructing the general public in such branches. "While he confidently believed that vastly more harm than good is done by a prudish concealment of the physiology of sex and its relations to health, he also clearly recognized that such instruction should be imparted at the proper age and under certain limitations; while the general facts common to the species cannot be taught too generally, or made too familiar. Hence, he projected three books, one to be placed in the hands of young women, a second for youths, and a third for a general household book of reading and reference on medicine and hygiene. These three he completed in " The Physical Life of Woman," "The Transmission of Life," and the "Handbook of Popular Medicine."
This plan, he believed, met all the objections to popular medical instruction, at least all well-grounded objections, while at the same time it did away with any necessity for concealing truths important to be known, for fear they should come to the knowledge of those for whom they were not designed, and on whose minds they might have a disturbing tendency.
There can be no doubt but that both the plan and its execution were successful. The many letters he received, filled with thanks from private parties who had gained inestimable knowledge from these works, made rich compensation for the occasional severe strictures he received from those wedded to ancient ways, and who often condemned without even reading his works.
The intelligent reading public, on whom, after all, the writer must depend for a verdict on his works, were unanimous in his favor. They bought them in quantities, and the writer of his life in the Transactions of the Pennsylvania State Medical Society, above quoted, who wrote in 1877, estimates that by that time over a quarter of a million copies had been printed and sold. Translations were made into the German, and several editions pirated and printed in Canada and England. In fact, the works may now be considered to rank as classics in the language, and many years must go by before another such series can be written, on topics of this nature, with equal delicacy of touch and accuracy of knowledge.