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  • Dr. John Moore, 1729–1802: A Life in Medicine, Travel and Revolution by Henry L. Fulton
  • Richard B. Sher
Henry L. Fulton. Dr. John Moore, 1729–1802: A Life in Medicine, Travel and Revolution. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2015. xxi + 788 pp. Ill. $150.00 (978-1-61149-493-8).

If accomplishment is measured by the number of spheres in which one attains distinction, John Moore was surely among the most accomplished late eighteenth-century British professional men. He practiced medicine and later wrote a book about it. He accompanied a Scottish peer on the Grand Tour and parlayed his notes into two of the most popular travel books of the age: A View of Society and Manners in France, Switzerland, and Germany (1779) and A View of Society and Manners in Italy (1781). He was the author of three novels, including the strong-selling Zeluco (1789). He spent four months in France in 1792 and the next year published A Journal during a Residence in France, followed two years later by A View of the Causes and Progress of the French Revolution. Although sometimes overbearing in his manner, he moved easily in radical and aristocratic, medical and literary, English and Scottish circles, first in his native Glasgow and subsequently in London. He wrote a valuable biographical sketch of his old friend and relation (and fellow medical practitioner) Tobias Smollett and in August 1787 was the recipient of a famous autobiographical letter from Robert Burns. He also fathered several sons who achieved notable success in their chosen careers, including the war hero General Sir John Moore and the physician Dr. James Moore, whose Essay on the Materia Medica (1792) is worthy of notice in its own right.

Producing an effective biography of such a man requires the necessary knowledge, skill, and perseverance to grasp all aspects of his life and works and to master a vast amount of relevant published and archival material, including unpublished correspondence, memoirs, and banking records, scattered in dozens of libraries and repositories on both sides of the Atlantic. Fortunately, Henry L. Fulton has spent decades engaged in this task, and it shows, not only in the heft of the book, but in the depth and breadth of the coverage. Although the author’s own discipline is English literature, the book is not slanted in favor of Moore’s novels, as one might expect. Rather, Fulton is careful to treat all aspects of Moore’s career [End Page 152] with equal care, opening up to the reader a huge swath of eighteenth-century British and European culture.

Medicine is a case in point. Fulton pays careful attention to Moore’s medical education and practice as a surgeon in Glasgow, beginning with an apprenticeship at age fourteen and attendance at lectures on anatomy and surgery by William Cullen and others. After a break to serve as a surgeon’s mate during the War of Austrian Succession, which provided opportunities to learn about battlefield medicine and to undertake further study with William Hunter and William Smellie in London, Moore returned to Glasgow as a partner in the surgery practice of his former master, John Gordon. As Fulton shows, having a surgery practice in eighteenth-century Scotland was akin to being a general practitioner, and Moore learned medicine through experience. Mostly he learned that the standard medical theories and remedies of the day were bogus, with the exception of Peruvian bark (quinine) and a patent medicine called Dr. James’s Powder (oxide of antimony and calcium phosphate), which actually worked as treatments for various maladies. His surgical practice ended after more than twenty years in 1772, when he set out for the Continent with the young Duke of Hamilton—an adventure that Fulton treats in vivid detail. At this time Moore became a physician by securing an M.D. degree from Glasgow University, simply because his employers thought it would be advantageous for him to be known as “Dr. Moore.” After five years of European travel with the duke, he was financially independent and took up residence as an author in London, but he continued to practice medicine for friends who requested his services. His Medical...


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