Containing Some General Reflections
The first reflection that arises, is, the good sense of the Captain; who was unwilling to impose his horse for a racer; not being qualified for the course. Because, as an old lean beast, attempting a trot, he was respectable enough; but going out of his nature and affecting speed, he would have been contemptible. The great secret of preserving respect, is the cultivating and showing to the best advantage the powers that we possess, and the not going beyond them. Every thing in its element is good, and in their proper sphere all natures and capacities are excellent. This thought might be turned into a thousand different shapes, and clothed with various expressions; but after all, it comes to the old proverb at last, Ne sutor ultra crepidam, let the cobler stick to his last; a sentiment we are about more to illustrate in the sequel of this work.
The second reflection that arises, is, the simplicity of the Captain, who was so unacquainted with the world, as to imagine that jockeys and men of the turf could be managed by reason and good sense; whereas there are no people who are by education of a less philosophic turn of mind. The company of horses is by no means favourable to good taste and genius. The rubbing and currying them, but little enlarges the faculties, or improves the mind; and even riding, by which a man is carried swiftly through the air, though it contributes to health, yet stores the mind with few or no ideas; and as men naturally consimilate with their company, so it is observable that your jockeys are a class of people not far removed from the sagacity of a good horse. Hence most probably the fable of the centaur, among the ancients; by which they held out the moral of the jockey and the horse being one beast.
A third reflection is, that which he expressed; viz. the professional art of the surgeon to make the most of the case, and the technical terms used by him. I have to declare, that it is with no attempt at wit, that the terms are set down, or the art of the surgeon hinted at; because it is a thing so common place to ridicule the peculiarities of a profession or its phraseologies, that it favours of mean parts to indulge it. For a man of real genius will never walk in the beaten path, because his object is what is new and uncommon. This surgeon does not appear to have been a man of very great abilities; but the Captain was certainly wrong in declining his prescriptions, for the maxim is, unicuique in arte sua perito, credendum est; every one is to be trusted in his profession.