Never trifle with a Disease (Alternative: A Quack, to no true Skill in Physick bred


For the better. 1713 Misc adds: "imitated from Sir Roger L'Estrange"

Primary Text:

MS Folger, 286-8* (first 10 lines omitted, 11th changed from "A Doctor" to "A Quack, to no true skill in physic bred").

Here is how the poem is introduced in the Folger text:

Never trifle with a Disease. For the Better.

MS Folger p 286 (not crossed out):

Never trifle with a Disease
Regarding lesse the patient then the fees
With uselesse Druggs of ling'ring Ill attack
And keep till 'twas too late the known specifick back
Att verge of Death promise a longer space
And bar the Souls Phisitian Time and place
Then lett not Him or others (next him) fam'd
Believe my Verse att the Profession aim'd
But whilest they reap th'applause they have deserv'd
Smile at th'exposing Quacks who shou'd be lash'd or starv'd.

A Doctor, to no Greek or Latin bred . . .

Secondary Eds:

1713 Misc, 137-9; rpt of 1713: 1903 Reynolds, 166- 8; rpt of 1903 Reynolds: 1930 Fausset, 76-7.


Finch transforms "A Doctor and his Patient", from L'Estrange, Pt 1, No. 95 with the help of deft refrain of "For the better" in verse paragraph version of Thomas Houghton and Thomas Singleton's "Of a sick man and the doctor" in their 1673 Aesop Improved, "Of a sick man and the doctor," Bk 2, No. 9..


A fairly close paraphrase of parts of Houghton and Singleton combined with an elegant reprisal of the coarse attack by L'Estrange produces a memorable poem on the hypocrisy, greed, and uselessness of unscrupulous doctors. With the censored opening, the poem gains a serious or religious perspective. Perhaps it refers to some specific case where someone died or nearly died because to gain more fees an ignorant doctor had neglected to give the patient more medicine or called for another opinion or more help.
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Page Last Updated 8 January 2003