The Water Cure.


  The writer of the following letter, Dr. ROBERT WESSELHOEFT, is one of the most valuable gifts made by the spirit of restriction in Germany to our own freer land. He combines the culture of the Old World with the hopes of the New. As a young man he was distinguished for his attainments, and, sharing the impulse whose repression in Germany sent Follen, Beck and others to be our instructors, was thought worthy of some years’ imprisonment in his own land. This time, taken from the best years of his life, was not lost to the resolute man. “I had an opportunity,” said he, when questioned on the subject, “to review my studies.”—“Man, like fruit,” it was said in the case of Paganini’s imprisonment, “ripens well on straw.” We think, indeed, both ripen best in the sunlight, if they can have enough of it. But there are precious and peculiar boons only to be won from trial and endurance—only to be won from these by a wise and willing mind. That Dr. Wesselhoeft had such an one the results show. We believe he was not originally intended for his present profession; the studies which he “reviewed” were of a different kind. But the physician of the prison became interested in him and taught him what he himself knew of the art of healing. The attention of every young thinker in Germany was turned at that time, consciously or unconsciously, to the physical condition of Man. The movement which pervades our own time more and more had begun its onward sweep. It was felt that the new men who were to upbuild the new life must be healthy. They must lay aside effeminate and corrupting practices; they must also forbear a morbid development of one or two faculties at the expense of the whole nature; they must go to their work, not only as minds, but as men, with sane bodies to do the work of sane minds. This just feeling was obvious in the great importance attached to gymnastic exercises by the young Germans of that time. Sharing this impulse, Dr. Wesselhoeft was prepared to see that the art of healing was nought unless it be also the art of health. He brought to his work a well-trained mind, able to appreciate and appropriate the results of past experience, but he brought also a vigorous and hopeful mind able to detect the new laws of action wanted to make his science one of prevention more than cure. This is the problem of our day, which theorists and practitioners are, in willing or unwilling cooperation, trying to solve.—Whoever reads the letter of Dr. Wesselhoeft will perceive that such is the aim of the Water Cure, and, whether he believe in that method or not, will find valuable suggestions thrown out and just principles intimated as to the conduct of that bodily life from which our spiritual life should grow as a flower from its root. With regard to Dr. Wesselhoeft as a practitioner, we must, from personal knowledge, pay him our tribute as to a man of extensive and various knowledge and resources, a most patient and sagacious observer of symptoms, one of the few physicians we have seen of sufficiently enlarged capacity to be a student of character in the patient, instead of treating him as a mere machine, and a man of perfect honor and candor who lures on no one by false hopes. Whoever goes to him may depend on a full and intelligent examination of their case, not only at the present moment (to which physicians so commonly confine themselves) but in these circumstances of inheritance and education which have led to it. He will also find understanding of influences from within as well as without. How high this praise is and how rarely it could with truth be applied, those who have been so unfortunate as to need much medical aid will feel. By Dr. Wesselhoeft they will not be treated merely as bodies, neither merely by rule and precedent, but with a wise sympathy that can vary the treatment as required by the individuality of the patient, and they may be sure of a candid judgment, if no means of the kind are likely to be of use. We think there is something very attractive in the thorough transfusion of substance proposed by the Water Cure. It would be agreeable indeed, to have a new body drawn from pure air, pure water and milk. He who is purged by such a baptism can surely not be accused of cleaning the outside of the platter merely, or being a whited sepulchre. We understand that cases of intemperance in the use of spirituous liquors, which yield to no other method do to this, and that the patient comes out a child once more, with this terrible appetite literally washed out of the system.*

“The Water Cure.” New-York Weekly Tribune, 27 June 1845, p. 1.