Chapter 9 LETTERS FROM PATIENTS
NORTH VASSALBORO, May, 26th, 1850.
Dr. P. P. Quimby,
DEAR SIR: I shall address you as the good Samaritan who came along and took me by the hand and opened my understanding, and took my disease from me in so remarkable a manner that I can say, Blessed be the name of the Lord for raising up such a servant as you are. It seems to me as though you took my disease, for it has never returned. But still I have many bad feelings to contend with, even to wrestling all day to the going down of the sun. I am still able to come out victorious over all bad feelings, for my health has been improving ever since you came to our house. I am now ten times as well as any living man could have supposed. I am able to walk over a mile a day without much inconvenience. [I have] only to think for a moment of the good Samaritan taking me by the hand and putting me on the road to health. . . . Only to think of my being almost four years a bed-keeper and now so well! Why, it is nothing short of a miracle. You can imagine how I am enjoying everything, sun, moon, earth, every living thing, never looked so grand, so beautiful or sublime. . . .
Your fame is still sounding as on the wings of the wind. Many questioners are asking about you. . . . I am saying it is the only true way whereby man can be healed. I am daily preaching your doctrines to the children of men. . . . I hope by strict attention to your rules to remain well.
[The letter concludes with references to sick people in the neighborhood who need Quimby's treatment. The writer describes the maladies he labored under for years and the difficulties he encountered in travelling about and overworking. His statements indicate that he is a man well along in years, and that he has now taken a new start in life, with the realization that he is in possession of an intelligible principle to live by. Quimby early began the practice of treating silently at a distance. The following extract is with regard to a woman who was clairvoyant enough to see Quimby in the case of one of his mental visits.]
Last Friday evening, Oct. 3rd, between 7 and 10 o'clock, mother and a niece of hers, who is here on a visit, were sitting together talking, and this lady says she saw you standing by mother, about to lay your hand on her head. Just at that moment mother left the room, before her friend had told her what she saw, so your visit was interrupted. What was quite strange was that this lady described some of your characteristics, in looks and appearance, very accurately, although you have never been described to her. Mother wishes to know if you were really here in spirit at that time.
[Fortunately, a letter was preserved in which Quimby, under date of Oct. 3rd, wrote to the patient in question that he would visit her on that day, the day he was seen by the stranger. This letter was not sent and the patient did not therefore know that Mr. Quimby expected to visit her in spirit at that time. But it is evidence that the visit was real on Quimby's part, and that it coincided with the time his presence was perceived by the stranger. In a letter written five days later, responding to the above, Quimby makes another appointment, adding, "If that lady is still with you, I will try to make myself appear to her eyes next Sunday, between 7 and 8 o'clock." This was in the days when it was still important to prove beyond all doubt that a person's presence could actually be perceived in this way, at an appointed time. Some would regard the instance in which Quimby was seen by a stranger without prearrangement as more significant than in the case of his plan to make himself "seen" at an appointed time.
The impression produced by some of Quimby's more remarkable cures is indicated by a letter dated, Exeter, Feb. 18, 1858, in which the writer, David Barker, speaks of the case of a Mrs. Crane, who is described as "perfectly happy and free from all pain and care." The writer goes on to say that the house is thronged by people anxious to witness a miracle, for a greater miracle was never performed since Christ raised Lazarus." A few days later, writing to Dr. Quimby, Mr. Barker says:]
Whether by accident or not, you performed as great a miracle in my mother's case as in Mrs. Crane's. You will remember stopping there with my brother two weeks ago tomorrow night and examining her ankle, which was so badly broken eleven years ago. She has only stepped on her toes since, and that with the aid of crutches. Her foot was nearly straight on a line with her ankle. Immediately after you left she found that the contracted cords in her foot were all relaxed, and that she could put her foot square upon the floor and walk well without the aid of crutch or cane. She was at my house today, and although nearly seventy years old she convinced me that you had given her the use of her foot by dancing a regular "pigeon's wing." The whole country is crazy to have you visit us again.
[Several letters were written to substantiate the case of Maria Towne, of Lancaster, N. H. The first is from her father and bears the date of March 18th, 1860:]
My daughter was attacked with lameness and unable to walk, nine years last December. The physicians called it a disease of the hip, and treated her for the same. She partially recovered in six months. In ten or twelve months she appeared to be quite firm. Five years last September she had another attack in the hips and limbs that has given her severe pain up to this time, and baffled the skill of our physicians. . . . She has constantly been under the care of the best medical aid.
Last August she was attacked with a weakness in the eyes, and unable to see; had been kept in a dark room since the twenty-fifth of August. She has subsisted for the last six months on the value of from four to two teacups full of milk in twenty-four hours. She has not walked any for the last five and a half years, with the exception of a few steps five years ago this winter.
Through the solicitation of a friend, we sent for Dr. P. P. Quimby of Portland, who came to her Saturday evening, March 17, at 9 o'clock. The next day at one P. M., she got up from her chair alone and walked ten feet without assistance. She can now bear some light in the room, and begins to see quite well. She walked from her room to the dining-room with very little help this evening, to tea, and ate quite a hearty meal without causing her any pain.
[The second letter, signed Harriet F. Towne, is apparently from the mother, and is dated March 21, 1860.]
Thinking you would like to hear from Maria by this time, I hasten to inform you that she is in fine spirits, can have a little more light in the room; but cannot hold her eyes open any longer than when you were here. . . . She is all courage and walks a little every day, and enjoys her food very much. Maria wants to hear from you soon. Please write if that lady in Wayne walked last Monday, and if you come here often. Maria imagines you do. (1)
(1) The "lady in Wayne" was one whom Quimby treated absently while in Lancaster attending Miss Towne. Such cases were interesting to patients as well as to onlookers, because they gave evidence of the great healer's power to make himself felt at a distance, and this was a new phenomenon in those days.
[The third letter is from the father, under date of April 1, 1860:]
Dear Sir: Maria gains strength a little every day. She has gained in one week ending last Thursday two and a half pounds in weight. She walks across the room six or eight times in a day with a little help. Her appetite is good. Her eyes grow stronger, she can have considerable light in the room. . . . There are several here that are anxious for you to see them. One man that is very much troubled with the phthsic wanted me to ask if you had any control over that disease. . . .
[Then follows a letter from the patient herself who, after a visit to Dr. Quimby in Portland, writes concerning the one trouble now remaining, her eye-trouble, which she says is extremely obstinate. She finds that the eyes are better only when she is under Quimby's direct influence. Feeling entirely dependent upon her restorer for health and happiness, she is eager for more help from him. It was Quimby's endeavor to put his patients in possession of the healing principle so that they would not depend upon the "influence" they felt while sitting by him or receiving absent help; but this was a question of time, especially in the case of trouble with the eyes.
A patient who had been restored to health in a remarkably short time after years of invalidism in which she had been unable to walk, writes as follows after returning from Portland:]
HILL, N. H., Oct. 27, 1860.
My dear Doctor
How I do want to see you. I am well and happy. You can't imagine how the people stare at me here at the Water Cure. Dr. Vail thinks he will come and see you. I talk as much of your Science to him as I know how to. I wish I knew more. I want you to prove to me mind is matter, so I can to them. . . (1) I went to see one of the old-school doctors. He is coming to see you and see if he can learn your way. He . . . greatly rejoices with me. . . . I can't make the religious part go. I can't understand it. It doesn't seem to suit me. I go to church, though the preaching does not always suit me, to prayer meetings, and I pray as I used to. What do you think of me ? (2)
(1) That is, prove that mind is susceptible to opinions, leading to changes in the body, as Quimby explains in his writings.
(2) This is typical of people who tried to return to their old ways after coming in touch with Quimby and sensing his religious spirit. Quimby's emphasis was on good works, not on doctrine, and he directed attention to the Divine presence with all men as guiding Wisdom.
My uncle and brother, doctors in Lowell, were so anxious and had so many fears for me that I had to get out on the street soon as I could and go off on a walk four miles long. I went just as fast as I could, some of the time running, until all the fears were gone. They make my back feel strangely (the fears), and I can't seem to sit as erect.
I will send all I can to you. I will start some from this vicinity. I am a great sight to the people. . . . There are many more people ready to receive this theory than I had supposed. My uncle and brother did not seem to get any clue to it, and said they did not know what to think of it....
It does seem good to walk, and my heart is full of gratitude to you and God. I am so glad I went to see you. I can't express it.
[Nearly a year later, writing from Wilmington, Ills. this patient expresses the thought that her restorer has helped her since she left home, although she has had little to meet save homesickness. She says in part:]
I wish you would take away that longing for the East, at those times when I feel I would give all to see Dr. Quimby. I try to think you are not far away. I like to think of that place by you which is mine. I laugh over the "sittings" I had with you, don't you? when I think how dreadfully distressed I was lest you were wanting to cast me out of the way to give room for new friends. How funny that you should know how I felt all the while. How you can understand the feelings hidden within others are entirely ignorant of, appears to me quite mysterious. When I consider what you have done for me and others, and that you are continually doing greater and greater cures, I conclude I cannot tell what may not be done, and that you possess a knowledge far superior to any other person I have known or heard of. I am glad I ever came to you, almost glad I was sick to need your assistance, that I might know and feel these things. When one is raised from a long illness to perfect health, as it were instantly, do you not realize what a healthy person cannot? Would they want to help feeling glad, and that the man who did such a splendid thing for them was the nicest, best man in the world?
It does me good to know the Science is being appreciated, that you are successful. . . . I want to know if a knowledge of mind acting on mind will enable one to control an ungovernable child without using any means of punishment, and what you do in the next world with profane, drunken, stealing, murdering men-people commonly sent into eternal punishment?
I wish I could tell you how I feel. But it is the same as when I sat with you: an undefinable longing for something.
[Another letter of the same year begins by raising a problem:]
I wonder if everything that occurs through life that makes me sad has got to make me sick. Can't you tell me something about it, and give me some good fatherly advice? Something quite unpleasant has occurred since I was in Chicago that gave me a great deal of trouble night and day, and I find myself out of fix. . . .
Doctor, I often get your picture and I imagine I have regular sittings with you. They do me good, I do believe. But the picture is not equal to the live man.... You know the gratitude of my heart better than I can express it.
[Other letters written from time to time indicate that the cure was permanent, although there are slight matters requiring her healer's advice. Writing from her old New England home four years after she was cured, Miss X. says that everybody remarks how strange it is that she is so well. She also says:]
I have never lost a moment from sickness since I have been in school, nearly two years. I walk six and eight miles in a day, very often. . . . I feel so thankful I am well. If it had not been for you I would have been in my grave or much worse off long before now. I cannot tell you, Dr. Quimby, how much I think of you, and love you for what you have done for me. . . . When I went to school in Chicago my friends said in less than three months I should be sick. I wrote you and you said you would not let me, and I have not been. Now I want that knee of mine cured up. . . .(1)
(1) These letters indicate that the chief difficulty encountered by former patients who depended solely on the new Science was in avoiding old fears and other mental associations readily called up when meeting sceptical friends.
[Another series of letters, dating from 1860 to December 25, 1864, begins with the description of the patient's case, a fibrous tumor about to be operated upon and other conditions as diagnosed by competent physicians, and traces the results from time to time, as the patient reports her progress. She, too, experiences difficulty in avoiding the recurrence of old symptoms, for her case was well known, the doctors are sceptical, sometimes angry, and she must maintain her faith against opposition. At times she can hardly call herself well, and so writes to Dr. Quimby to express her difficulties and receive his advice or help. The following letter is typical of those written to express gratitude:]
PLYMOUTH, Oct. 17th, 1858.
MY PRESERVER AND FRIEND: With feelings of gratitude and kind respect, I will write you, and inform you that I am able to walk as well as ever I could, a pleasure which I could not have enjoyed had it not been through your unceasing and untiring care and treatment. Words will not express my thankfulness to you, kind Dr., for the pleasures I am permitted to enjoy. When I contemplate my past helplessness, and know that to you I am indebted for all I do now enjoy, my heart is ready to burst in gratefulness.
I continue to improve in walking day by day, as you told me [I would], and now I can run up and down stairs (not as fast as you can, because you are so spry) but as well as most any one else. My friends receive me with wonder depicted upon their countenances, I assure you, to see me walking all by myself, was a joy to them indescribable, and believe me their whole tribute of praise is tendered to you. With all love and respect, I remain,
Your young friend, E. C.