A Practical Guide to the Study of the Diseases of the Eye: Their Medical and Surgical Treatment

By HENRY W. WILLIAMS, M. D. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo. pp. 317.
IF we readily accord our gratitude to those whose skilful hands and well-instructed judgment render us physical service in our frequent need, ought we not to offer additional thanks to such as by the high tribute of their mental efforts confirm and elucidate the more mechanical processes required in doing their beneficent work?
Do those who enjoy unimpaired vision, and who have not yet experienced the sufferings arising from any of the varied forms of ocular disease, appreciate the magnitude of the blessing vouchsafed to them ? We venture to answer in the negative. Occasionally, the traveller by railway has a more or less severe hint as to what an inflamed and painful eye may bring him to endure: those countless flying cinders which blacken his garments and draw unsightly lines upon his face with their slender charcoal-pencils do not always leave him thus comparatively unharmed. Suppose one unluckily reaches the eyeball just as the redness has faded from its sharp angles, — do we not all know how the rest of that journey is one intolerable agony, unless some fellow-traveller knows how to remove the offending substance I And even then how the blistered, delicate surface yearns for a soothing douche of warm water, — perhaps not to be enjoyed for hours !
From slighter troubles, through all the more serious and dangerous states arising from injury or produced by spontaneous or specifically aroused inflammation, to the wonderful operations devised to give sight, when the clear and beautiful lens has become clouded, or the delicate muscular meshes of the iris are bound down or drawn together so as to close the pupil and shut out the visible world, the learned and skilful operator conies to our aid, a veritable messenger of mercy. To be deprived of sight, — who can fully appreciate this melancholy condition, save those who have been in danger of such a fate, or have had actual experience Of it, though only temporarily ? Such a misfortune is universally allowed to be worse, by far, than congenital blindness. And this is not difficult to understand. The eyes that have been permitted to drink in the varied hues of the landscape, and to gaze with such de' light upon the celestial revelations spread out nightly above and around them, are indeed in double darkness when all this power and privilege are swept away, it may be forever. The astronomer can truly estim ate the value of healthy eyes.
In looking over again, after a thorough perusal some time since, the admirable work which forms the theme of this notice, we could not resist the impulse to call attention to the infinite rrscs, unbounded importance, and inestimable value of the organs of vision; and we have no fear hut our postulate in regard to the manner in which we should all prize their conservators will he heartily acceded to.
This is hardly the place in which to cnter into a minute professional examination of this new volume. If we advert generally to its purpose, and point out the undoubted benefits its recommendations and teaching are destined to confer, both upon those who are sufferers, — or who will be, unless they heed its warnings,— and upon the practitioners who devote either an exclusive or a general attention to the diseases of tho eye, the end we have in view will be partially attained, — and fully so, if the author's convincing instructions are brought into that universal adoption which they not only eminently deserve, but must command. Let us hope that the clear style, sensible ndvice, and valuable information, derived from so varied an experience as that which has been enjoyed by our author, will have a wide and growing influence in the extensive field of professional ministrations demanded by this class of cases, — for, let it bo remembered, and reverently be it written, “ THE LIGHT OF THE BODY IS THE EYE.”
The distinctive aim of the author — and which is kept constantly in view — is the simplifying both of the classification and the treatment of the diseases of the eye. We know of no Yolume which could more appropriately and beneficially be put into the hands of the medical student, nor any which could meet a more appreciative welcome from the busy practitioner. The former cannot, at the tender age of his professional life, digest the ponderous masses of ocular lore which adorn the shelves of the maturcr student’s library ; and the latter, while he is glad to have these elaborate works at his command for reference, is refreshed by a perusal of a few pages of the more unpretending, but not less valuable vade-mecum.
While the professional reader will poruso this book with pleasure as well as profit, there are many points and paragraphs of great value to everybody. We advise every one to look over these pages, and wo promise tliat many valuable hints will be gained in reference to the various ailments and casualties which are constantly befalling the eye. It is well in this world to become members of a Mutual-Assistance Society, and help one another out of trouble as often as we can. In order to do this, we must know how; and, in many cases, a little aid in mishaps such as are likely to occur to the eye may prevent a vast deal of subsequent injury and pain.
We cannot but refer to the singular good sense of the author in pressing upon his reader's attention the mischief so often wrought, hitherto, — and we fear still frequently brought about, — by over - activity of treatment. Especially does this find its exemplification in the care of traumatic injuries of the eye. Rashness and heroic measures in these cases are as unfortunate for the patient as are the well-meant efforts of friends, when a foreign substance has been inserted into the ear or nose, or a needle broken off in the flesh : what was at first an easily remedied matter becomes exceedingly difficult, tedious, and painful, after various pokings, pushings, and squeezings.
The author’s experience in cases of cataract makes his observations upon that affection as valuable as they are clear and to the purpose. The same is true with regal’d to the use and abuse of spectacles.
A short account of that interesting and most important instrument, the Opthalmoscope, will command the attention of the general reader.
Finally, we notice with peculiar satisfaction the elegant dress in which the volume appears. A very marked feature of this is the agreeable tint given to the paper, so much to be preferred to the glaring snowy white which has been so long the rule with publishers everywhere. This is especially befitting a volume whose object is the alleviation of ocular distress, and we venture to say will meet with the commendation of every reader. A similar shade was adopted, some time since, by the publishers of “ The Ophthalmic Hospital Reports,” London, at the suggestion, we think, of its accomplished editor, Mr. Streatfeild.