Let it be known that today, the first Monday of November 2011 (November 7th, to be precise) I was, at the vigorous yet tender age of 56 years, diagnosed with and began treatment for gout.
When I expressed to both my physician and my pharmacist my perplexity at such a seeming injustice, I assured them that I was quite knowledgeable about gout, having read Franklin’s wonderful dialogue with Madam Gout.
Both my physician and my pharmacist laughed outright, although M., my pharmacist, told me in her kind manner to go home, put my foot up, and re-read Mr. Franklin.
So I did. And for those of you who haven’t read (or haven’t in some time), here is the conclusion of Benjamin Franklin’s conversation with Madame Gout.
Up to this point, Madame Gout has been berating him for his sedentary life. Her crowning piece of medical advice–which is for Franklin the final straw–is that he take his fine carriage and burn it: He will now have to walk everywhere he goes and he can use the heat of the fire to a salutary effect on his gouty being.
GOUT. Well, then, to my office; it should not be forgotten that I am your physician. There.
FRANKLIN. Ohhh! what a devil of a physician!
GOUT. How ungrateful you are to say so! Is it not I who, in the character of your physician, have saved you from the palsy, dropsy, and apoplexy? one or other of which would have done for you long ago, but for me.
FRANKLIN. I submit, and thank you for the past, but entreat the discontinuance of your visits for the future; for, in my mind, one had better die than be cured so dolefully. Permit me just to hint, that I have also not been unfriendly to you. I never feed physician or quack of any kind, to enter the list against you; if then you do not leave me to my repose, it may be said you are ungrateful too.
GOUT. I can scarcely acknowledge that as any objection. As to quacks, I despise them; they may kill you indeed, but cannot injure me. And, as to regular physicians, they are at last convinced that the gout, in such a subject as you are, is no disease, but a remedy; and wherefore cure a remedy?—but to our business,—there.
FRANKLIN. Oh! oh!—for Heaven’s sake leave me! and I promise faithfully never more to play at chess, but to take exercise daily, and live temperately.
GOUT. I know you too well. You promise fair; but, after a few months of good health, you will return to your old habits; your fine promises will be forgotten like the forms of the last year’s clouds. Let us then finish the account, and I will go. But I leave you with an assurance of visiting you again at a proper time and place; for my object is your good, and you are sensible now that I am your real friend.
–As of today, I promise to keep my truck, but burn my carriage. While I will never be a better man than Franklin, I will, I swear, burn my carriage and, like Franklin, avow “never more to play at chess.”