“I dig old books.” ™
Welcome to the Web's largest page of quotations about gout. I've been collecting on the topic for nearly twenty years but recently have taken advantage of the digitalization by Google Books of many fine old texts to enlarge my collection even further. I've spent well over a hundred eye-blearing hours scouring old literature — online and in actual dusty books, too — for interesting excerpts about the painful and ancient affliction. And if you are a sufferer of said malady, I hope reading this lengthy compilation takes your mind off the torment for a while!
But it is with Jealousy, as with the Gout. When such Distempers are in the Blood, there is never any Security against their breaking out; and that often on the slightest Occasions, and when least suspected. ~Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749
Does any man doubt that the weaker the body the more imperious and overbearing it is? Why, Voltaire declared that the fate of a nation has often depended on the good or bad digestion of a prime minister. Motley avers that the gout of Charles the Fifth changed the destiny of the world. ~The Herald of Health and Journal of Physical Culture, December 1867
That a person afflicted with Gout should receive little sympathy, except from his physician or from his fellow-sufferers, is scarcely to be wondered at, in view of the opinion that the disease is a just punishment to the offender.... To think that a bottle of wine or a truffled paté, or even a glass of beer, instead of being absorbed and eliminated by the system in the usual manner, should mine its way through the thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and instep, to explode at last in a fiery volcano in one's great toe, seems a mirth-provoking phenomenon to all but him who is immediately concerned. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
Almost equally strange, too, is the period selected by the visitant for its assault,—the silent watches of the night, when it rouses the victim from his slumbers, and the softest bed becomes a veritable rack of torture.... In vain your moans of anguish as the awl, the gimlet, and probe of the Inquisitor are thrust into your very bone and marrow. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
And, like Faust when he made a compact with Mephistopheles, Gout proves an equally rigorous task-master, who allows no turning back or renunciation of his allegiance. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
By the ancients it was looked upon as the daughter of Bacchus and Venus. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
Drink wine, and have the gowt; drink none, and have the gowt. ~Thomas Cogan, The Haven of Health (Epistle Dedicatory), 1584 ["For all those that have a care for their health, amplified upon five words of Hippocrates: Labour, Meat, Drink, Sleep, Venus"
If you drink wine, you have the gout; if you don't drink wine, the gout will have you. ~German proverb [The more literal translation is: You may drink wine or leave it, but the plaguy gout sticks all the same.
Gout brightens the intellect, and sets light to the spirit-lamp of the imagination. It will not be believed by the uninitiated, but a man never finds himself in better trim, more up to the mark, bodily and mentally, than when he is just on the eve of being laid up in dry dock. ~"Good Qualities of Gout," in All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal, conducted by Charles Dickens, 1859 May 28th, wording slightly altered
Gout is so closely associated with the daily subsistence of civilised man... the sequence of high-living and thorn in the rose of gastronomy, with many years of savoury dinners and fragrant vintages as its genesis and means of evolution. More or less allied to dyspepsia and kin to indigestion, it is, nevertheless, a common affliction induced by widely varying causes, that since the days of the ancients has proved a weariness to the flesh and has yielded little to medication.... and falls without warning upon the just and the unjust still. No other malady, not strictly organic, has baffled medical science to so great an extent, the doctors themselves being frequently among its chosen victims, with whom it often flourishes under the more plebeian title of "rheumatism." ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
Peter Muckworm is laid up with the Gout. Why I hear he's weary of doctoring it, and now makes Use of nothing but Patience and Flannel. ~Simon Wagstaff, Esq. (Jonathan Swift, 1667–1745), A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, According to the Most Polite Mode and Method Now Used at Court, and in the Best Companies of England, In Three Dialogues, "Dialogue III: The Ladies at their Tea," published 1738 (Lady Answerall, wording slightly altered)
Patience is good for abundance of Things besides the Gout. ~Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British by Thomas Fuller, 1732
From its being usually attributed to luxury and close familiarity with the rarer products of the vine, Gout is sometimes supposed by the uninitiated to be a rather desirable companion than otherwise, — the acquaintance with which confers a certain title of distinction upon the possessor. This might hold good were it a necessary sequent of a faultless palate and the signet of a supreme judge of wine. But gastronomy and finesse of taste are often no auxiliaries in its acquisition; it may be acquired by ordinary beer and beefsteak as ready as by Châteaubriands and a well-stocked wine-cellar. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
May I govern my passion with an absolute sway,
And grow wiser and better, as my strength wears away,
Without gout or stone, by a gentle decay.
~Walter Pope (c.1630–1714), "The Wish," 1697
The best remedy for rheumatism that's ever yet been discovered is to find some fellow who has a bad case of the gout, pity him and forget yourself. ~Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw, 1818–1885)
Thare iz plenty ov happiness in this life if we only knu it: and one way tew find it iz, when we hav got the old rumatiz tew thank Heaven that it aint the old gout. ~Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw, 1818–1885) [Or if you prefer, the "translated" version: There is plenty of happiness in this life if we only knew it: and one way to find it is, when we have got the old rheumatism to thank Heaven that it ain't the old gout.
Then shoots an unseen hand into our limbs,
A fiery dart, which like lightning flies
Through all our veins and arteries and joints,
Gnaws, pierces, tears, devours, inflames, and burns
Heels, feet, toes, shin-bones, ankles, shoulders, arms,
The hinges of the crazy body's motion,
Hips, thighs, knees, wrists, back, and every part,
Undermining the whole human structure
Till the great goddess Gout calls her torments off.
~Lucian of Samosata, "Tragopodagra" (Gout in Tragedy), 2nd century, originally in Greek, — from Wieland & Tooke, 1820, wording slightly altered
The excruciating agonies which Nature inflicts on men (who break her laws) to be represented as the work of human tormentors; as the gout, by screwing the toes. Thus we might find that worse than the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition are daily suffered without exciting notice. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, journal, 1837 August 22nd, Salem
Love, fire, a cough, the itch, and gout are not to be concealed. ~German proverb
I've been acquainted with her
These forty summers, and as many winters,
Were it spring again: She's like the gout; I can get
No cure for her.
~John Fletcher, The Maid in the Mill: A Comedy, c.1647, Act V, Scene II (Franio)
Afterward: A space of time in which something happens after something else has happened, as, life, death; love, disillusion; riches, gout; wine, headache; unselfishness, regret. ~The Roycroft Dictionary, Concocted by Ali Baba and the Bunch on Rainy Days, 1914 (Elbert Hubbard)
'Tis time to leave this couch,
This curtained prison, hindering the sun's ray...
Fain would I try, ah me! to reach the door,
Foot dragging after foot, but all in vain.
Strengthless, alas, my stiffened joints refuse...
~Lucian of Samosata, "Tragopodagra" (Gout in Tragedy), 2nd century, originally in Greek, — from Wieland & Tooke, 1820
Much more is known about the stars than about rheumatism. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "New England's Accents," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940
An expensive shoe does not rid us of the gout, nor an expensive ring of a hangnail, nor a crown of a headache. ~Plutarch, On Tranquillity, c. 95 AD
Gout fastens upon the man of robust constitution equally with him of frail habit. Cruel and relentless, it strikes the professor at his desk, the general in his camp, the judge upon his bench. Its poison comes by heritage, its venom lurks in the wine-cup, its seeds are sown at the gatherings of good-cheer. Emperors and kings have known its power, doctors and surgeons felt its lance; the priest, the monk, and red-robed cardinal have roared with pain when crushed within its clamp of steel. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897, wording slightly altered
Once every twelve months, to be precise, as the year dies and the sap sinks in my old veins, my physical and psychologic—isn't that the new-fangled way of putting it?—barometer sinks; in sympathy with Nature I suppose. My corns ache, I get gouty, and my prejudices swell like varicose veins. ~James Gibbons Huneker, "Old Fogy is Pessimistic," 1902
Why do you speak so hesitatingly? Has your imagination the gout, that it limps so? ~Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, 1897 (Roxane)
Next Gout appears with limping pace,
Pleads how he shifts from place to place,
From head to foot how swift he flies,
And ev'ry joint and sinew plys,
Still working when he seems supprest,
A most tenacious stubborn guest.
~John Gay, "The Court of Death," Fables, 1727
Medical procedures are seldom of use but to the idle and intemperate, as all those applications which are so much in practice among us, are for the most part nothing else but expedients to make luxury consistent with health. The Apothecary is perpetually employed in countermining the cook and the vintner. What would Diogenes the philosopher have said had he been present at the gluttony of a modern meal? For my part, when I behold a fashionable table set out in all its magnificence, I fancy that I see gouts and dropsies, fevers and lethargies, with other innumerable distempers lying in abundance among the dishes. Nature delights in the most plain and simple diet. Every Animal, but Man, keeps to one dish. Herbs are the food of this species, Fish of that, and Flesh of a third. Man falls upon every thing that comes in his way, not the smallest fruit or excrescence of the earth, scarce a Berry or a Mushroom can escape him. ~Joseph Addison, The Spectator, 1711 October 13th, No.195, wording slightly altered
Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, & sloth;
Or the Gout will seize you and plague you both.
~Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1734
Nothing agrees with me. If I drink coffee, it gives me dyspepsia; if I drink wine, it gives me the gout; if I go to church, it gives me dysentery. ~Mark Twain, letter to Henry H. Rogers, 1905 August 7th
A Pox of this Gout, or a Gout of this Pox; for the one or th'other plays the Rogue with my great Toe... A good Wit will make use of any thing; I will turn Diseases to commodity. ~William Shakespeare, Henry IV. Part II, c.1599 (Falstaff)
Since I must be old and have the gout, I have long turned those disadvantages to my own account, and plead them to the utmost when they will save me from doing anything I dislike.... Nobody can tell how rapidly the gout may be come, or be gone again; and then it is so pleasant to have had the benefit, and none of the anguish! ~Horace Walpole, letter to Horace Mann, 1785 October 30th, Berkeley Square
Pride and the Gout are seldom cur'd throughout. ~Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1747
There are bearable fits of the gout, and unbearable. But even when the torments of gout are insupportable, still bear them if you possibly can; the very act of bearing will alleviate them; the faintness and perspiration of extreme suffering will end in a salutary calm. If you really can bear no more and are beginning to cry out for somebody to come knock you on the head and put you out of your misery, call rather for your family physician and ask him to give you a discreet sedative. ~"Good Qualities of Gout," in All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal, conducted by Charles Dickens, 1859 May 28th, wording slightly altered
[T]he gout is a complaint as arises from too much ease and comfort. If ever you're attacked with the gout, sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loud woice, with a decent notion of usin' it, and you'll never have the gout agin. It's a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg'lar, and I can warrant it to drive away any illness as is caused by too much jollity. ~Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, 1836
"To vain desires that all my soul unhinge
What, to such ardours, is a gouty twinge!"
Not that Podagra, when the Knight it seiz'd
His members with the gentlest pressure, squeez'd!
Ah!... it bent his fingers into bows,
And, as with red-hot pincers, tore his toes...
Hail'd, now admitted into purer air,
One warm and steady friend—his easy chair;
Aver'd, that such a visit from the gout
Serv'd but to bring his peccant humours out;
And said, it quicken'd the dead calm of life,
With brisker influence, than a scolding wife!
~Richard Polwhele (1760–1838), The Old English Gentleman: A Poem, 1797
And become old fogies! I am to settle and become respectable before I grow bald and have had the gout! What a dreadful prescription, marriage! ~H.S. Cunningham, Sibylla, "Fresh Woods and Pastures New," 1894 (Amersham, wording slightly altered)
I am too much harassed by a variety of correspondence, together with gout and gravel, which induce me to postpone doing what I often fully intend to do, and particularly writing, where the urgent necessity of business does not seem to require its being done immediately, my sitting too much at the desk having already almost killed me... ~Benjamin Franklin, letter to William Carmichael, 1783 December 15th
Franklin.—Eh! Oh! Eh! What have I done to merit these cruel sufferings?
Gout.—Many things you have ate and drank too freely, and too much indulged those legs of yours in their indolence. So take that twinge— and that. I have a good number of twinges for you to‑night, and you may be sure of some more to‑morrow. I have here a list of your offences against your own health distinctly written, and can justify every stroke inflicted on you. Do you remember how often you have promised yourself, the following morning, a walk in the grove or garden, and have violated your promise, alledging, at one time, it was too cold, at another too warm, too windy, too moist, or what else you plead; when in truth it was too nothing, but your insuperable love of ease? How absurd to suppose, that all this carelessness can be reconcilable with health, without my interposition!
~Benjamin Franklin, "Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout" ("dated" Midnight, October 22, 1780) [I've abridged this from part of an 8‑page piece appearing in the 1806 edition of Franklin's Complete Works. It is noted by the editor: "We have no authority for ascribing this paper to Dr. Franklin, but its appearance, with his name in a small collection of his works printed a few years ago at Paris, and cited before, page 480. As the rest of the papers in that collection are genuine, this probably is also genuine. What we give is a translation."
There is no pain like the Gout. ~Crossing of Proverbs, Crosse Answers, and Crosse Humours by B.N. Gent, c.1616 (Nicholas Breton, c.1553–c.1626)
Hither, ye Torments, come, at my command,
Close on them! You, from soles to every toe,
Round the feet the burning anguish spread!
You, settle in the joints; you gnaw their knees,
Along the shins down to their ankle bones,
You pour sharp poison in their veins!
Screw the wrists, and you the knuckles twist,
And fix your chalk-stones in the stiffen'd joints.
Lie the wretches on the ground, miserably rackt.
~Lucian of Samosata, "Tragopodagra" (Gout in Tragedy), 2nd century, originally in Greek, — from Wieland & Tooke, 1820, wording slightly altered
As the gout seems privileged to attack the bodies of the wealthy, so ennui seems to exert a similar prerogative over their minds. ~C.C. Colton, Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think, 1820 (No. CCLIX)
Philosophy iz a fust rate thing to hav, but yu kant alleviate the gout with it, unless the gout happens to be on sum other phellow. ~Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw, 1818–1885) [Or if you prefer, the "translated" version: Philosophy is a first rate thing to have, but you can't alleviate the gout with it, unless the gout happens to be on some other fellow.
In youth, we clothe ourselves with rainbows, and go as brave as the zodiac. In age, we put out another sort of perspiration,—gout, fever, rheumatism, caprice, doubt, fretting, and avarice. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), "Fate," The Conduct of Life
Smiling still he sank back into a rosy state between waking and doze.... [T]he tension of yesterday had quite died away... now he could look back upon that series of events as something already in the past.... He considered old age and its mutilations and wondered what it would do for him: examples presented themselves to his mind, not only of mental decay, physical weakness, gout, stone, and rheumatism, but of boastful mendacious garrulity, intense and peevish selfishness; timidity if not cowardice, dirt, concupiscence, avarice. ~Patrick O'Brian, The Fortune of War, 1979
Old age is something more than infirmity, "gout, and rheumatism," it is another standpoint; we see the world and its happenings, perhaps, with the impartial eyes of a dweller in another star. ~"The Vale of Years," Harper's Bazaar, quoted in Great Thoughts from Master Minds, 1887
If a person has the gout, this is what they do with him: they have him out at 5.30 in the morning, and give him an egg and let him look at a cup of tea. At 6 he must be at his particular spring, with his tumbler hanging at his belt—and he will have plenty of company there. At the first note of the orchestra he must lift his tumbler and begin to sip his dreadful water with the rest. He must sip slowly and be a long time at it. Then he must tramp about the hills for an hour or so, and get all the exercise and fresh air possible. Then he takes his tub or wallows in his mud, if mud baths are his sort. By noon he has a fine appetite, and the rules allow him to turn himself loose and satisfy it, so long as he is careful and eats only such things as he doesn't want. He puts in the afternoon walking the hills and filling up with fresh air. At night he is allowed to take three ounces of any kind of food he doesn't like and drink one glass of any kind of liquor that he has a prejudice against; he may also smoke one pipe if he isn't used to it. At 9:30 sharp he must be in bed and his candle out. Repeat the whole thing the next day. I don't see any advantage in this over having the gout. ~Mark Twain, "An Austrian Health Factory," c.1892 [Marienbad, Bohemia — Mary's Bath, curative springs
It's great, these baths. I didn't come here for my health—I only came to find out if there was anything the matter with me. The doctor told me if there was the symptoms would soon appear. After the first douche I had sharp pains in all my muscles. The doctor said it was different varieties of rheumatism, and the best varieties there were, too. After my second bath I had aches in my bones, and skull, and around. The doctor said it was different varieties of neuralgia, and the best in the market—anybody would tell me so. I got many new kinds of pains out of my third douche. These were in my joints. The doctor said it was gout, complicated with heart disease, and encouraged me to go on. Then we had the fourth douche, and I came out on a stretcher that time and fetched with me one vast, diversified, undulating, continental kind of pain, with horizons to it and zones and parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude and isothermal belts and variations of the compass—O, everything tidy and right up to the latest developments, you know. The doctor said it was inflammation of the soul, and just the very thing. Well, I went right on gathering them in—toothache, liver complaint, softening of the brain, nostalgia, bronchitis, osteology, fits, coleoptera, hydrangea, cyclopedia britannica, delirium tremens, and a lot of other things that I've got down in my list that I'll show you, and you can keep it if you like and tally off the bric-a-brac as you lay it in. ~Mark Twain, "Mark Twain at Aix-les-Bains," 1891
GOUT, n. A physician's name for the rheumatism of a rich patient. ~Ambrose Bierce (1842–c.1914), The Devil's Dictionary
The discovery of a grey hair when you are brushing out your whiskers of a morning—first fallen flake of the coming snows of age—is a disagreeable thing.... So are flying twinges of gout, shortness of breath on the hill-side, the fact that even the moderate use of your friend's wines at dinner upsets you. These things are disagreeable because they tell you that you are no longer young—that you have passed through youth, are now in middle age, and faring onward to the shadows in which, somewhere, a grave is hid. ~Alexander Smith, "An Essay on an Old Subject," 1866
Alcohol is the worst enemy of the gouty.... Water is the best friend... ~William Tibbles, Food and Hygiene, 1907
Be persuaded, then, of one invaluable truth: even if you begin to weary of Gout's society, the only safe way of dismissing him is by allowing him to dismiss himself. Inscribe in letters of gold on the cornice of your chamber, "Gout is the only cure for Gout." You may turn yourself inside out, like a glove, with purgatives; you may deaden your nerves with quack narcotics, without advancing a step in the right direction. ~"Good Qualities of Gout," in All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal, conducted by Charles Dickens, 1859 May 28th, wording slightly altered
Once again I conjure thee,
By the pose in thy nose,
And the gout in thy toes;
By thine old dried skin,
And the mummy within...
By the stakes, and the stones,
That have worn out thy bones...
~John Fletcher, The Chances: A Comedy, c.1647 (Act 5, Scene III), spoken by Peter Vecchio (a Teacher of Latin and Musick, a reputed Wizard) [Wording possibly altered from original, by Villiers in the 1600s and Garrick in the 1700s. This wording is from an 1811 reprint. 'Pose' was the word for a type of phlegmy upper respiratory infection.
The gout may hurt his hands, lameness his feet, convulsions may torture his joynts, but not rectum mentem: his soul is free. ~Democritus Junior (Robert Burton), The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621
Catharine de Medicis... was now stretched on the bed of suffering. Time had robbed her of her personal charms, and that scourge of the human race, the gout, was racking her bones and sinews. ~Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee (1780–1865), The Huguenots in France and America, 1843
Some have their favourite ills, and each disease
Is but a younger branch that kills from these;
One to the Gout contracts all human pain,
He views it raging in the frantic brain,
Finds it in fevers all his efforts mar,
And sees it lurking in the cold catarrh:
Bilious by some, by others nervous seen,
Rage the fantastic dæmons of the Spleen...
~George Crabbe, "The Library: A Poem," 1781
[G]out, unlike any other disease, kills more rich men than poor, more wise men than simple. Great kings, emperors, generals, admirals, and philosophers, have died of gout. Hereby Nature shows her impartiality, since those whom she favours in one way she afflicts in another — a mixture of good and evil pre-eminently adapted to our frail mortality: 'Nihil est ab omni parte beatum.' ~Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689), A Treatise of the Gout and Dropsy, 1683 [Quoted portion is Horace,—There is nothing that is in every respect blessed, or happy, or perfect. Every silver lining has its cloud. I'm not certain it was in Sydenham's original, it seems to be the poetic addition of a translator.
Not for all the gold his coffers hold would I be that rich man there,
With a liver pad and a gouty toe, and scarce a single hair...
~G.T. Lanigan, "Millionaire and Barefoot Boy," c.1883
"Pray, Mr. Abernethy, what is a cure for gout?" was the question of an indolent and luxurious citizen. "Live upon sixpence a-day — and earn it!" was the pithy answer. ~National Portrait Gallery, and The Annual Biography and Obituary: 1831, John Abernethy, Esq. (1764–1831)
Old age doth in sharp pains abound;
We are belabored by the gout,
Our blindness is a dark profound,
Our deafness each one laughs about.
Then reason's light with falling ray
Doth but a trembling flicker cast.
Honor to age, ye children pay!
Alas! my fifty years are past!
~Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857), "Cinquante Ans.," translated from French by C.L. Betts
In the Gout, likewise, if the Expectation-Physician presents his Patient gratis with this following nostrum, it will not only be well taken, but much more veneration will be given to it, than if it came from the Apothecaries shop, and to the Physician will redound a very lasting diffusive glory and reputation; viz., ten links of thred, half yard long, dipt in Wax of ten different colours; each is to be tyed by the Patient, if possible, or by his Nurse, to each distinct Toe of the Feet, and to be untied every hour or two, and changed to other toes, namely, the red wax't thred where the green was, the blue where the yellow, &c. By this means a great deal of time will be passed, and if the Patient continues tying and untying, until a good long fit is expired; it will have also another good effect of rendering his back very flexible, and being tired at Night prove a means to make him sleep without the charge of a dose of Opium. ~Gideon Harvey, M.D., The Art of Curing Diseases by Expectation, 1689
Threads do not break for being fine, but for being gouty and ill-spun. ~Portuguese proverb
The gout is to the stomach, what rheumatism is to the heart. ~Benjamin Ball, 1866
Gout is to the arteries what rheumatism is to the heart. ~Henri Huchard (1844–1910), c.1888
Each tries to foil me in a different way,
Racking the invention of still baffled physic—
What mine in nature's kingdom unexplored,
What juice of plants and herbs, trees and roots
Has not been tried as weapons to undo me.
They strive against me with arthritic pills,
Yet I catch them by their tender feet.
~Lucian of Samosata, "Tragopodagra" (Gout in Tragedy), 2nd century, originally in Greek, — from Wieland & Tooke, 1820, wording slightly altered
As opposed to the charges of high-living and intemperance made by vegetarians, Grahamites, and intemperate tea and water devotees, it is time that Gout should be clearly defined for what it really is in very many instances,—a perverse, ungrateful, maleficent malady, that delights upon the slightest pretext in assaulting vulnerable humanity at the most unseasonable hours and inconvenient times; an infliction that is especially prone to picket club-men, physicians, poets, and heads of official departments... a scourge that for the most part is beyond the prevention of the average sufferer who duly follows the laws of the decalogue and leads the customary life of civilisation... a stealthy, rancorous, irascible, mordacious disorder, masked under many forms, that continues to defy the science, skill, and pharmacopœia of the medical profession.... the Wolf of diseases, with ensanguined fangs and encarmined jowl. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
A´ching. n. s. [from ache.] Pain; uneasiness. "When old age comes to wait upon a great and worshipful sinner, it comes attended with many painful girds and achings, called the gout." South. ~Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), A Dictionary of the English Language [See full South quote below.
Nor is excess the only thing by which sin mauls and breaks men in their health, and the comfortable enjoyment of themselves thereby, but many are also brought to a very ill and languishing habit of body by mere idleness. The farmer returns from the field strong and healthy, because he is innocent and laborious, his meals are coarse and short, his employment warrantable, his sleep certain and refreshing, neither interrupted with the lashes of a guilty mind, nor the aches of a crazy body. And when old age comes upon him, it comes along, bringing no other evil; but when it comes to wait upon a great and worshipful sinner who for many years has eaten well and done ill, it comes attended with a long train of rheums, coughs, &c. together with many painful girds and achings, called the gout. ~Robert South (1634–1716), sermon, wording slightly altered
Thy tendon-racking pains would full suffice
To expiate the most gigantic crimes.
My body wasted by relentless pain,
From fingers' ends to soles of feet and toes
The gnawing choler, nourished by vile gall,
Presses in vain with furious throbs
Through the stopt pores, and drives the furious pain
Along my bowels, writhes my full veins,
Racks every sinew; the scalding mischief
Renders life a burden....
The madd'ning ill; vain is the doctor's skill;
My pains light on them all! They promise ease,
Yet all are cozened by the damned disease!
~Lucian of Samosata, "Tragopodagra" (Gout in Tragedy) [This composition from the second century has "suffered much under the talons of transcribers" and translations from its original Greek. Credits: C.M. Wieland and Wm Tooke
As a general rule, however, the poor are exempt from gout, by their urgent necessities preventing the operation of the two causes of luxurious feeding and indolence.... Of the two forms of arthritis or articular inflammation, rheumatism is the tax most frequently paid by the vulgar dram and grog drinker; gout, that incurred by the genteel and sometimes the literary wine-bibber.... So that, on the score of sentiment and association, the poor devil of a whiskey or rum drinker has rather the advantage over his more privileged neighbour who drinks wine and quotes Anacreon and Horace. ~John Bell, M.D. (1796–1872), Lecture CLXVII — Gout, Podagra, Arthritis, in Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Physic (Bell, Pennsylvania & Wm Stokes, Dublin), 1848
This man, Lady, hath robb'd many beasts of their particular additions; he is as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant; a man into whom nature hath so crowded humours, that his valour is crusht into folly, his folly sauced with discretion: there is no man hath a virtue, that he hath not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint, but he carries some stain of it. He is melancholy without cause, and merry against the hair: he hath the joints of every thing, but every thing so out of joint, that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use; or purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight. ~William Shakespeare, The Books of Troilus and Cressida, 1602 (Alexander)
Full of wine and cramm'd with luscious fare
Waking at midnight with a hideous moan
And gods! my feet, my feet, aloud did bawl.
I, like a furious female vex'd at heart
Fixed in his foot-sole my envenom'd sting.
~Lucian of Samosata, "Ocypus," 2nd century, wording slightly altered
Towards the end of January or the beginning of February, suddenly and without any premonitory feelings, the disease breaks out. Its only forerunner is indigestion and crudity of the stomach, of which the patient labours some weeks before. His body feels swollen, heavy, and windy—symptoms which increase until the fit breaks out. Besides this, there is a spasmodic affection, whilst the day before the fit the appetite is unnaturally hearty. The victim goes to bed and sleeps in good health. About two o'clock in the morning he is awakened by a severe pain in the great toe; more rarely in the heel, ankle, or instep. This pain is like that of a dislocation, and yet the parts feel as if cold water were poured over them. Then follows chills and shivers, and a little fever. The pain, which was at first moderate, becomes more intense. After a time this comes to its height, accommodating itself to the bones and ligaments of the tarsus and metatarsus. Now it is a violent stretching and tearing of the ligaments—now it is a gnawing pain, and now a pressure and tightening. So exquisite and lively meanwhile is the feeling of the part affected, that it cannot bear the weight of the bedclothes nor the jar of a person walking in the room. The night is passed in torture, sleeplessness, turning of the part affected, and perpetual change of posture. Abatement of pain comes only towards the morning of the next day, such time being necessary for the moderate digestion of the peccant matter. The patient has a sudden and slight respite, which he falsely attributes to the last change of position. A gentle perspiration is succeeded by sleep. He wakes freer from pain and finds the part recently swollen. ~Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689), translated from Latin by R.G. Latham, wording slightly altered [Sydenham was known as "the English Hippocrates." Although his collected works were translated from Latin, it is disputed whether that or English was the original language.
Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. With some He ambles, with some trots, others gallops, and with yet others stands still. Time ambles with a Priest that lacks Latin, and a rich Man that hath not the Gout; for the one sleeps easily, because he cannot study; and the other lives merrily, because he feels no pain. ~William Shakespeare, As You Like It (Act III, Scene II, Rosalind), wording slightly altered
It is a hard, although a common case,
To find our children running restive—they
In whom our brightest days we would retrace,
Our little selves re-form'd in finer clay:
Just as old age is creeping on apace,
And clouds come o'er the sunset of our day,
They kindly leave us, though not quite alone,
But in good company—the gout or stone.
~Lord Byron (1788–1824), Don Juan
With respect to the gout, the physician is but a lout. (Que ha la gota el medico no vee gota.) ~Spanish proverb
In general the Greek physicians gave different names to the affection, according to the situation in which it occurred: for example, when the foot was attacked, it was named Podagra; when the hand, Chiragra; when in the knee, Gonagra; and Omagra, Cleisagra, Pechyagra, Dentagra, &c. when either the shoulder, clavicle, elbow, teeth, &c. became the special seat of disease; when, however, many joints were simultaneously affected, the term Arthritis was more commonly applied. The word gout appears to have been introduced into medicine about the end of the thirteenth century, by Radulfe, and it probably owes its origin to the idea which has been very prevalent in all ages, that the disease was caused by the presence of some peculiar humour in the blood, which was thrown out, or, as it were, distilled into the joints drop by drop...
The writings of Hippocrates, who lived about 350 years before the Christian era, show that he was by no means unacquainted with the disease, and many of his aphorisms indicate the possession of a considerable knowledge of the laws and nature of gout.
~Alfred Baring Garrod, The Nature and Treatment of Gout and Rheumatic Gout, 1859
Gouty pains do chiefly stir spring and fall. ~Hippocrates
But when the flow'ry elms declare the spring,
And the shrill blackbirds on the branches sing,
Then through our limbs her pointed arrow glides,
Ent'ring unseen, and in the joints resides.
~Lucian of Samosata, 2nd century
Every leap and spring aids in renewing the body, and therefore in giving greater hilarity to the spirit, and superior vigor to the intellect. Every motion helps to construct a fortification against disease, and to render the body more impregnable against its attacks. Those prodigious leaps over the vaulting horse, how they kick hereditary gout out of the toes. ~Horace Mann (1796–1859), address at opening of gymnasium in Boston
Health is certainly more valuable than money, because it is by health that money is procured; but thousands and millions are of small avail to alleviate the protracted tortures of the gout, to repair the broken organs of sense, or resuscitate the powers of digestion. Poverty is, indeed, an evil from which we naturally fly; but let us not run from one enemy to another, nor take shelter in the arms of sickness. ~Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. XLVIII, 1750 September 1st
Foremost Old Age, his natural ally
And firmest friend: next him diseases thick,
A motley train; Fever with cheek of fire;
Consumption wan; Palsy, half warm with life,
And half a clay-clod lump; joint-tort'ring Gout,
And ever-gnawing Rheum; Convulsion wild;
Swol'n Dropsy; panting Asthma; Apoplex
Full-gorg'd.—There too the Pestilence that walks
In darkness, and the Sickness that destroys...
~Beilby Porteus (1731–1809), "Death: A Poetical Essay" [Bishop Porteus, an abolitionist, won the Seatonian Prize for this poem in 1759 — an annual University of Cambridge reward set up per instructions in Mr. Seaton's will, for an English poem by any Master of Arts, on a subject judged to be "conducive to the honour of the Supreme Being and recommendation of Virtue."
I have now been here near a month, bathing and drinking the waters, for complaints much of the same kind as yours; I mean pains in my legs, hips, and arms; whether gouty or rheumatic, God knows; but, I believe, both, that fight without a decision in favour of either, and have absolutely reduced me to the miserable situation of the Sphynx's riddle, to walk upon three legs; that is, with the assistance of my stick, to walk, or rather hobble, very indifferently. I wish it were a declared gout, which is the distemper of a gentleman; whereas the rheumatism is the distemper of a hackney-coachman or chairman, who are obliged to be out in all weathers and at all hours. ~Lord Chesterfield, 1765 November 28th, Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope, Esq, Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden
I didn't come here to take baths, I only came to look around. But first one person, then another began to throw out hints, and pretty soon I was a good deal concerned about myself. One of these goutees here said I had a gouty look about the eye; next a person who has catarrh of the intestines asked me if I didn't notice a dim sort of stomach ache when I sneezed. I hadn't before, but I did seem to notice it then. ~Mark Twain, "An Austrian Health Factory," c.1892 [Marienbad, Bohemia — Mary's Bath, curative springs
Death having occasion to choose a prime minister, summoned his illustrious courtiers, and allowed them to present their claims for the office: Fever flushed his cheeks; Palsy shook his limbs; Dropsy inflated his carcass; Gout racked his joints; Asthma half strangled himself; Stone and Colic pleaded their violence; Plague, his sudden destructions; and Consumption his certainty. Then came War, with stern confidence, alluding to his many thousands devoured at a meal. Last came Intemperance, with a face like fire, shouting, "Give way, ye sickly, ferocious band of pretenders...." The grisly monarch here gave a smile of approbation, and placed intemperance at his right hand, as his favorite and prime-minister. ~Robert Dodsley (1703–1764)
FEVER! that thirsty Fury, came,
With inextinguishable Flame;
CONSUMPTION, sworn Ally of DEATH!
Creep'd slowly on with panting Breath;
GOUT, roar'd and shew'd his throbbing Feet,
And DROPSY took the Drunkard's Seat;
STONE brought his tort'ring Racks; and near
Sat PALSY shaking in her Chair.
~Dr. Nathaniel Cotton (1705–1788), "Happiness," Visions in Verse, for the Entertainment and Instruction of Younger Minds, 1751
It grieves me that I cannot keep pace with your civilities—no, nor even acknowledge them in due time. Alas! in any thing, I can as ill acquit myself as a gouty man can dance; but it cannot be helped, I write to humanity. ~J. Dyer, letter to Mr. Duncombe, 1757 August 1st, Coninsby
Nor need we tell what anxious Cares attend
The turbulent Mirth of Wine; nor all the kinds
Of Maladies, that lead to Death's grim Cave,
Wrought by Intemperance, joint racking Gout,
Intestine Stone, and pining Atrophy...
~John Philips (1676–1709), Cyder: A Poem, 1708
Up stairs hobbled the old schoolmaster, as fast as the gout and welsh ale would let him... ~Maria Edgeworth and Richard Lovel Edgeworth, Essay on Irish Bulls, 1803
Most welcome Bondage; for thou art a way,
I think, to Liberty; yet am I better
Than one that's sick o'th' Gout, since he had rather
Groan so in perpetuity, than be cur'd
By th' sure Physician, Death; who is the Key
T' unbar these Locks. My Conscience, thou art fetter'd
More than my Shanks, and Wrists; you good Gods give me
The penitent Instrument to pick that Bolt,
Then free for ever...
~William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Cymbeline (Act V, Scene II, Posthumus)
Lord Chatham is relapsed, and worse than ever; he sees no body, and no body sees him: it is said, that a bungling Physician has checked his gout, and thrown it upon his nerves; which is the worst distemper that a Minister or a Lover can have, as it debilitates the mind of the former, and the body of the latter. ~Lord Chesterfield, 1767 July 9th (Blackheath), Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope, Esq, Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden
He has fits of crying, starting, and every effect of hysterics. He suffered from an acute form of melancholia, caused by suppressed gout, for it was noticed that every real attack of gout relieved him. ~General Lee, about Lord Chatham, in a letter to the king of Poland, c.1767, and Arthur Christopher Benson, Fasti Etonenses: A Biographical History of Eton, 1899 [Mash‑up quote. Hence—sorry!— the mismatched tenses.
The aged man that coffers up his gold,
Is plagu'd with cramps, and gouts, and painful fits;
And scarce hath eyes his treasure to behold,
But like still-pining Tantalus he sits,
And useless barns the harvest of his wits;
Having no other pleasure of his gain,
But torment that it cannot cure his pain.
~William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, 1594
Julius Scaliger, who in a sleepless fit of the gout could make two hundred verses in a night, would have but five plain words upon his tomb. ~Thomas Browne (1605–1682), "A Letter to a Friend, Upon Occasion of the Death of His Intimate Friend" [Printed posthumously by Browne's son in 1690. The five words: Julii Cæsaries Scaligeri quod fuit.
People wish their enemies dead — but I do not; I say give them the gout, give them the stone! ~Mary Wortley, quoted by Horace Walpole in letter to William Mason, 1778 September 17th, Strawberry Hill
The mind is of course the seat of all pain and pleasure. The pain of the gout is not in my toe, but in my mind, and I refer it to the toe as the cause. If this were otherwise, I should have ten minds instead of one, and as many on my hands.... The pains of the body have all some affinity to each other, and in consequence of that affinity have received the common name of pain. ~Sydney Smith (1771–1845), A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith, by his daughter Lady Saba Holland, with A Selection from His Letters, edited by Mrs. Austin, 1855
Your complicated complaints give me great uneasiness, and the more, as I am convinced that the Montpellier physicians have mistaken a material part of your case.... In my opinion, you have no gout, but a very scorbutic and rheumatic habit of body, which should be treated in a very different manner from the gout; and, as I pretend to be a very good quack, at least, I would prescribe to you a strict milk diet, with the seeds, such as rice, sago, barley, millet, &c. for the three summer months at least, and without ever tasting wine. If climate signifies any thing (in which, by the way, I have very little faith) you are, in my mind, in the finest climate in the world; neither too hot nor too cold, and always clear: you are with the gayest people living; be gay with them, and do not wear out your eyes with reading at home. ~Lord Chesterfield, 1768 March 12th (London), Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope, Esq, Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden
A match 'twixt me, bent, wigged, and lamed,
Famous, however, for verse and worse,
Sure of the Fortieth spare Arm-chair
When gout and glory seat me there,
So, one whose love-freaks pass unblamed...
~Robert Browning (1812–1889), "Dîs Aliter Visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours"
Goddess Gout, thou ignorest the penniless in poverty and delightest to come to the feet of the Bacchus-friended wealthy. ~Lucian of Samosata, "Address To the Gout" [Note: This 2nd century excerpt, translated from Greek, has been a little altered, and poetized a bit. Trivia: It also inspired the tragi-comic drama Tragopodagra. It is said that Lucian, "on some favourable day, sought to beguile the tedious hours of a poor creature lying bound by the Gout on his couch, and is as rich in wit and humour as could possibly be desired of a man writing a poem afflicted by Podagra" (C.M. Wieland, W. Tooke). I've quoted parts of it throughout this page.
If thou art rich, thou'rt poor;
For like an Ass, whose Back with Ingots bows,
Thou bear'st thy heavy Riches but a Journey,
And Death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none,
For thine own Bowels which do call thee Sire,
The mere Effusion of thy proper Loins,
Do curse the Gout, Serpigo, and the Rheum,
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast not Youth, nor Age;
But, as it were, an after-dinner's Sleep,
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed Youth
Becomes as aged...
~William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Measure for Measure (Act III, Scene I, Duke)
No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this is to irritate; this is to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout: if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or torment. ~William Paley, c.1785
I have an affliction which was perfectly new to me; a fit of the gout. I am a little awkward at my crutches, and have been not so patient as longer experience of this sort of evil usually makes us. ~Richard Steele to Mrs. Scurlock, mother of Mary Scurlock, 1707 November 13th
Lord Hartford's illness in a long and severe fit of the gout confined me to a continual attendance in his chamber. He is now, I thank God, on the recovery, though not yet able to walk without the help of crutches. Our human state is indeed liable to many inconveniences; we are loaded with bodily infirmities, and tormented with passions; but a few circling years will clear the prospect, and we shall, through the grace of God, be relieved from all the pains and sorrows which vex us here. ~Frances Countess of Hartford, letter to Dr. Isaac Watts, c.1729, wording slightly altered
Gout well soon! ~Author unknown, a punny get well greeting card
I've heard that having gout toe-tally sucks! ~Terri Guillemets
I went to the doctor complaining of pain in my foot. He told me, "Gout." I said, "But I've only just walked in!" ~Author unknown
I ran across the statement very recently in the book of Theophrastus, On Inspiration, that many men have believed, and put their belief on record, that when gouty pains are most severe, they are relieved if a flute-player plays soothing measures. ~Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights), Liber Quartus, Caput XIII, 2nd century
Thy fires the tumid ankles feel,
The fingers maimed, the burning heel,
And toe that dreads the ground.
Thy pangs unclos'd our eyelids keep,
Afford at best tumultuous sleep,
And slumbers never sound.
Thy cramps our limbs distort,
Thy knots our joints invade;
Such is thy cruel sport,
~Lucian of Samosata, "Tragopodagra" (Gout in Tragedy), 2nd century, originally in Greek, — from Wieland & Tooke, 1820
If I do, fillip me with a three-man beetle—A man can no more separate age and covetousness than he can part young limbs and letchery: but the gout galls the one, and the pox pinches the other, and so both the degrees prevent my curses. ~William Shakespeare, Henry IV. Part II, c.1599 (Falstaff)
Let lazy great ones of the town
Drink night away,
And sleep all day,
Till gouty, gouty they are grown;
Our nightly sports such vigour give,
That oftentimes we do revive,
And kiss our dames
With stronger flames
Than any prince alive.
~"The Hay-maker's Song," in The Hive: A Collection of the most Celebrated Songs (London), 1727
Although its manifestations are infinitely varied in all its types, in nearly three-fourths of the total number of examples the first attack is confined to the large joint or metatarso-phalangeal joint of one of the great toes; the left... being more often chosen than the right. Hence the term Podagra, or Gout of the foot... ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
A tendency to gout may be accounted for by a sluggish life of over-eating and drinking. ~Haydn's Dictionary of Popular Medicine and Hygiene: A Companion for the Traveller, Emigrant, and Clergyman, as well as for the Heads of all Families and Institutions, edited by Edwin Lankester, et al., 1870s, wording a little altered
There is not a single power of the body or mind, which inaction does not enfeeble or destroy. The lameness of gouty feet for instance, is often owing to their not having been sufficiently used. It is but a fair retribution that we should be deprived of a faculty, which we have not enough valued or employed. Between the two principal causes of gout, there is a natural alliance. Men are apt to indulge to excess in the luxuries of the table from a deficiency of other occupation, and there is a tendency, on the other hand, in gluttonous indulgence, to induce sluggishness and a disposition to intemperate repose. It is upon exercise, associated with regularity and moderation of living, and not upon any of the artifices or felicities of pharmaceutical composition, that the arthritic is to depend principally for a defence against the inroads of his painful and fearful malady. Drugs can assuage for a time the torture, but are insufficient to eradicate its cause. ~John Reid, M.D., "Bodily Exercise," Essays on Hypochondriasis, and Other Nervous Affections, c.1821
Those who, conjoining gastronomic industry with general idleness... and those in whom good-humour still so far prevails over bad blood as that they carry a pleasant countenance, yet feel, when gout is brewing in their veins, as if some evil spirit had possession of them, since the slightest circumstance that interferes with their pleasure throws them into a sudden rage. The condition of blood which precedes gout is... constantly associated with irascibility... ~George Moore, M.D. (1803–1880), The Use of the Body in Relation to the Mind, 1852
People who are accustomed to much exercise, are little troubled with severe diseases, with stone, gout, &c. For, to say the truth, an idle way of life, particularly where but a small portion of fluid is taken into the stomach, is the true parent of all diseases, that arise from an impurity and thickness of the blood, and have obstruction of the internal parts for their basis. On the other hand, nothing in the world is a more certain and efficacious preservative, than a sufficiency of bodily motion. It excels every medicine, that can be recommended for the preservation of health, and prevention of disease. If we attain to a sufficient degree a brisk circulation of the blood, free perspiration and elimination of the cacochymical fluids, good digestion and appetite, cheerfulness of mind, and refreshment of body, we may hold ourselves completely secure against three fourths of the catalogue of diseases. ~C.G. Salzmann, Gymnastics for Youth, translated from German, 1799, wording slightly altered
Excess of exercise, moreover, is attended with danger to the predisposed, inasmuch as it can suddenly increase the production of uric acid, the toxic property of Gout, to such a degree that the kidneys are unable to excrete the amount produced. ~George H. Ellwanger, Meditations on Gout: With A Consideration of its Cure Through the Use of Wine, "The Malady," 1897
Among those subjects which immediately relate to health, there is no one more important, or less regarded by individuals, than their aliment.... Nature intended that man should subsist upon the variety of bounties with which she has so liberally replenished the earth, and constituted his system in a manner suitable to partake, almost indiscriminately, of whatever is agreeable to his palate; and the injurious effects of many articles of diet are to be attributed, not so much to their peculiar nature, as to the refinements of cookery.... The gout was once a stranger in New England, but the luxury of modern days is preparing the way for a train of constitutional irregularities, which future generations can only regret, while they suffer its inflictions. To live long, live simply.... If plain animal food were taken but once a day, and men would substitute for the various ragouts, with which modern tables are so abundantly furnished, wholesome vegetables and pure water, or a weak fermented beverage... we should see health walking in the paths that are now crowded with the bloated victims of voluptuous appetite. ~"Food," The Medical Adviser, and Guide to Health and Long Life, edited by Alex. Burnett, M.D., 1824 July 24th