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a web of many textures

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Page 119


The doctor said it was a case of the gout — a clear
case. This was surprising to everybody, and everybody
smiled hugely at the idea; for beyond the most
frugal limit of appetite, including occasional tea, the
sufferer had not gone. There was a great flutter in the
family on account of it, because a case of the gout, they
deemed, brought respectability with it. Sir Leicester
Dedlock, in Bleak House, had the gout, and gloried in
it, because it was a disease that had been in the family
for many generations, and he had it by descent. But
here was a case where it had left the charmed circle of
the aristocracy, and had planted itself directly upon a
plebeian toe; — painfully, it is true, and the flesh cringed
and groaned in the utter misery of it; but it was “respectable,”
and a grateful posterity, it was deemed,
would look back reverently to the one who had introduced
the gout into the family blood. That doctor was
regarded as a marvellous man, whose science had penetrated
through the rheumatic and erysipelatic indications,
and had singled the gout as the actual disorder,
then gnawing like a vicious devil at the mortal extremity;
and it was with a thrill of pride that inquirers for
the health of the sufferer were assured that the gout
was the malady. Then old plates in Gentlemen's Magazines
were sought, by which to define the true position
for the gouty patient, — to determine whether the foot
should rest at an angle of forty or sixty degrees, or on a
plane with the horizon, — the difficulty being dispelled by
an old habitué of the theatres, who prescribed a flowered
dressing-gown, plenty of flannels, and the foot upon a
common cricket, as the theatrical position, and it was
forthwith adopted. The world affected to laugh about


Page 120
it, — it was such a glorious joke! — the world always
jokes when it affects to sympathize. Here was a claim to
gentility; here was an attempt to overstep, with a gouty
foot, old landmarks, by one who had no legitimate right
to the position, and men were alarmed; but, though
they tried to sneer it down as rheumatism, and roar
about it till they were red as erysipelas, the doctor,
who ought to know, said it was the gout, and the sufferer,
standing on his crutches, swore he would cut his
toe off before he would abate one nail of his claim —
that it was so.