In Spite of the Lion’s Skin the Ass Betrays Himself by His Braying

Ass in Lion's Skin

in about Warren

Date: July 16, 1767

Author: Democritus, a pseudonymous writer sharing Joseph Warren’s condemnation of Dr. Thomas Young

“Why really Hippocrates you should have better consulted the Character you assumed: In spite of the Lion’s Skin, the Ass betrays himself by his braying; who could have guessed that such exalted Merit as Dr. Young would be thought to be possessed of should endeavor Concealment beneath the obsolete Hippocrates; why I tell thee Man, Hippocrates arose to Eminence by Labour, Attention, diligent Observation and Travel; but Young! the self-informed Young! without Application, Diligence, or Tuition, darted to Perfection at once, ’twas all Inspiration with thee! thou great Automaton!  But thou seemest to hint at a magic Education, Young! why truly I cannot conceive any thing supernatural in Study or Travel; but these being Paths to Learning unknown to thee, and being so fully perswaded of they vast Abilities, any thing thou has never attained to may justly appear beyond the reach of human Genius.  There are a crowd of Sentences in thine elaborate Performances, lately termed Youngisms, which are unintelligible: Didst thou mean to confound rather than convince?  Pope tells us That true no Meaning puzzles more than Sense – and in fact thou hast exemplified the Truth of his Remark – but when you scrawl again, remember Si non vis intelligi, debet negligi: Peneomiscient in troth thou plenenescient, you expose yourself mainly; why dist thou meanly, dirtily, like thyself, endeavor to conciliate a Party among the honest and respectable Tradesmen of the Town, by insinuating so gross, so palpable a Fals[e]hood as that I considered them in a Station beneath the Beast that perishes: I shall only observe, that you have vented a Fals[e]hood, a r[a]scally shift to engage Partisans: and to give the Lie to such an Intimation, let me tell thee that I respect an honest Tradesman of the lowest Class to any itinerant Mountebank breathing, for this plain Reason, the first are useful Persons in their Station, the last are the most dangerous Vagabonds, as those who are simple enough to be gulled by them, run the most important Hazards at their Hands.

So – you are extremely grateful for my Advertisement – it’s Beauties are nonpariel, the Information interesting, and you will not monopolize the blessed Cargo; – I shall be gratified with one of the these Transports if to be had for nothing, at the public Charge, to instruct me to write: Blessed Arithmetician! bountiful Young! But why all this? – Thou art and hast been it seems concerned for my Sanity; – when I cannot tell: Didst thou attend me in thy magic Character? Let me adjure thee to write at me, rather than to prescribe for me, for upon my Word I had rather take any thing of thee than thy Physick: Thy Malice and intemperate Nonsense leave me uninjured, but Young in his other Capacity though he administer gratis, his Administration may be too dearly purchased; but not to be in debt for thy kind Solicitude for my Sanity, let me assure thee, I am at this Hour greatly concerned for thine Insanity.

N.B.  We are greatly indebted to thee, for the Discovery of thy Capacity at Etymology; but you appear to be angry with me for intimating you had a universal Medicine, – why thy great Antetype Van Helmont was very solicitous to obtain what we have so generously ascribed to thee – Prythee don’t be angry Man, I have no Malice against thee; – but it seems I am an ostentatious Fribble; don’t be too secure thou Gascoign! thou vapouring Braggart! thou rhodomontading Capt. Flash! upon Honor I do not dread thy Abilities, nor heed thy Challenge, if thou really meant one: I suspect thou wouldest avail thyself of some miserable Subterfuge should I condescend to enter the Lists with thee; thy Manners, thine Abilities, thyself are beneath the Regard of


Source: Boston News-Letter, July 16, 1767, issue 3328, p. 3

Commentary: Sparks were flying in a very public malpractice controversy. Whig physician Dr. Thomas Young attempted to defend his use of bleeding in a fatal case likely to have been pulmonary tuberculosis. Dr. Miles Whitworth began the accusations. Joseph Warren, weighing in pseudonymously as Philo Physic, applied a gleefully nasty voice on behalf of Dr. Whitworth. Democritus her joined the fray.

The controversy carried political overtones. Professional medical alignments ran contrary to the Whig versus Loyalist affinities of the participants and the two newspapers carrying alternate op-ed salvos.

The ass ineffectively and comically disguised as a lion references one of Aesop’s fables.

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