Letter from William Osler to his cousin, Jennette Osler [Transcript]
Osler remarks that McGill was foolish enough to offer him the Chair of Botany, a subject he knows little about. He refused
the appointment, although he suspects that R.P. Howard expected him to accept. He will likely return to Montreal and take
up private practice.
[Description courtesy of McGill University.]
Soon after Osler's death in 1919, Lady Osler asked their good friend Dr. Harvey Cushing to write a biography. For this
project, Cushing gathered a wide variety of material, including a substantial amount of Osler correspondence and other memorabilia
borrowed from Osler's family, friends, and colleagues. He employed three secretaries to transcribe these documents, and
later donated the transcripts (along with his other working materials) to the Osler Library. Many of the original documents
were returned to the owners. The originals that were retained, together with the Cushing transcripts, constitute the largest
and most accessible collection of Osler's correspondence.
Harvey Cushing's "Life of Sir William Osler" was published by Oxford University Press in 1925, and was awarded
a Pulitzer Prize in 1926.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (654,557 Bytes)
ca. January 1873
Original Repository: Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University. Osler Library Archive Collections, P417: Harvey Cushing Fonds
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Education and Early Career, McGill University, 1870-1884
[circa January, 1873]
"This is private & confidential"
McGill College was foolish enough to offer me about six weeks ago the Chair of Botany in the University. Botany is a thing
I know next to nothing about & is a subject I could not get up - with my other studies - in the time I had to spend here:
consequently I sent a polite refusal. I am afraid - from his letter to me -that's Dr. Howard expected me to accept it,
but really I would've made an ass of myself in so doing & that is not to my mind. What I am vexed about is - if I
am right in my supposition - this should have been mentioned. I hope Dr. Howard did not tell any one but yourselves &
pray goodness you have not sent it West of course the paternal as well as many others will think I was just as fitted to take
Botany as anything else but I should feel like an imposter in a chair such as that, the subject matter of which had been my
study for short 15 or 18 months. I shall probably return to Montreal, but it will be as a private practitioner, & - unless
any further offer is made which I do not expect - not in connection with McGill. I do wish you would not build upon me for
doing anything beyond my fellows. My abilities are but moderate and I can feel - bitterly sometimes - that deficiencies in
early education and want of thoroughness drag me back at every step. In addition to all this I have my bread to earn: so that
general medical studies demand the time which might be spent in acquiring - perhaps - reputation
One thing is certain, viz cultivation of those scientific pursuits at the expense of paying ones is an injustice to oneself
& - if he has one - his family
On prayers for the dead I will write in my next but it has always seemed to me a doctrine which concerned itself to the affections
rather than to Heaven.
With much love
Keep dark about that offer if it has not already got round Excuse the haste