Lives of the fellows

Charles Lucas

b.26 September 1713 d.4 November 1771
MD Leyden(1752) LRCP(1759)

Charles Lucas, M.D., was better known as an Irish politician than as a physician. His ancestors were farmers in the county of Clare, and it is supposed that by misfortune or mismanagement the property of his family had been lost. Dr. Lucas was born in the sister isle on the 26th September, 1713. He was bred an apothecary, and practised in that capacity for several years in Dublin. In 1741 he published his first work, " Pharmacomastix; or the Office, Use, and Abuse of Apothecaries explained," 8vo., Dublin; and on the 6th June, 1748, was sworn one of two assistant-apothecaries, nominated by the Corporation of Apothecaries in Dublin to assist the inspector appointed by the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in the visitation and examination of apothecaries’ and druggists’ shops in Dublin. But long before this, Lucas had committed himself to politics. It was, to use his own words, his "froward fate to have too much of a political knight-errantry interwoven with his frame."(1) He had become a member of the corporation of Dublin, and had ingratiated himself with the large number of his fellow citizens who, like himself, were opposed to the court party in the corporation and in the Irish senate. If he did not actually establish "The Freeman’s Journal" in support of the principles he was advocating, which, by many, he is represented to have done, he certainly edited it for several years, as he did also "The Censor, or the Citizen’s Journal." As he made warm friends on the one side, so he made bitter enemies on the other, and the latter were then in the ascendant. Party-feeling at that time ran rancorously high in Dublin, and when Lucas, in 1749, was an unsuccessful candidate for the representation of that city in the Irish parliament, the house of Commons, at the instance, it is said, of the Government, and by an unanimous vote, pronounced his writings seditious, and himself an enemy to his country. The house desired the attorney-general to issue an order for Lucas’s apprehension, and to escape this he sought an asylum in England. He then applied himself to the further study of physic, proceeded to Paris where he was a pupil under Petit, and then visiting Rheims and Leyden, at the last-named university graduated doctor of medicine 20th December, 1752 (D.M.I. de Gangræna et Spacelo). Returning to England he settled as a physician at Bath. On the 25th June, 1759, he was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians of London.

Dr. Lucas’s popularity in Ireland was not diminished by his long and enforced absence, which, as is not unusual in such cases, had blunted the edge of hostility against him, and. Given occasion to the gradual development of a reaction in his favour, of which he was now to reap the benefit. On the 6th May, 1761, he was elected by the city of Dublin a member of the Irish house of Commons; in the course of the same month was restored to the freedom of the city of Dublin, of which he had been disfranchised in 1749; and on the last day of May, 1761, was presented with the freedom of the city of Cork in a silver box. He probably intended, on his return to Dublin, to resume the exercise of his profession as a physician, for we find that on the 12th June, 1761, he presented himself to the King and Queen’s College of Physicians for examination for a licence, and was approved of, for the first time. But when his second examination became due, he requested its postponement, on the ground " that, through his attendance in Parliament, he could not be duly prepared." He never presented himself for this second examination, and consequently was never admitted by the Dublin college. His time was now fully occupied with his senatorial duties, but any detailed account of his parliamentary career would be out of place in a work like the present. Suffice it to say that Lucas, a man of popular assemblies, and trained amidst civic broils, was not a very effective speaker in the house of Commons, an assembly of lawyers and disciplined orators. "As a politician," writes Mr. Hardy,(2) " Dr. Lucas was, (as the duc de Beaufort was called during the time of the Fronde at Paris, un Roi des halles)—a sovereign of the corporations. In the house of Commons, his importance was withered and comparatively shrunk to nothing. Lucas had, in truth, little or no knowledge as a leader in parliament, and his efforts there were too often displayed in a sort of tempestuous alacrity to combat men whose lofty disregard of him left them at full liberty to pursue their argument as if nothing had disturbed them. Self-command, whether constitutional or arising from occasional contempt, is a most potent auxiliary. His opponents were, sometimes indeed, rendered indignant; but, whether calm or angry, the battle always left him worse than before. Yet, with all his precipitancy, and too frequent want of knowledge, he annexed a species of dignity to himself in the house of Commons that was not without its effect." He succeeded in passing through the Irish parliament in 1761, an act, commonly known as Lucas’s Act, by which, inter alia, the King and Queen’s College of Physicians were empowered " to enlarge the number of their body," which, by the charter of William and Mary, was limited to fourteen fellows: and in 1768 another act, limiting the duration of parliament to eight years. For this last-named act, and in recognition of his efforts to remedy great and obvious evils, his statue in white marble, by Edward Smyth, of Dublin (a very fine work of art), was placed in the Royal Exchange, now the City Hall, at the public expense. The doctor is represented in his senatorial robe, and as if energetically addressing the house of Commons; and in his right hand he holds a copy of Magna Charta.

Dr. Lucas suffered long and seriously from gout, and this, with the excitement, anxieties, and labours he had undergone, had the effect of ageing him at an unusually early period. When but little more than fifty years of age (and he died when he was fifty-eight), he had already the bodily infirmities and characteristics of the old man, and was generally thought to be much older than he was. "In his old age," writes Mr. Wills, " Dr. Lucas was an object of general respect, which his appearance and venerable deportment in society contributed to increase. During the latter years of his life, he was reduced to the lowest state of infirmity by repeated attacks of gout, so that he was always carried to the house of Commons where he could scarcely stand for a moment. In this situation he is thus described:— 'The gravity and uncommon neatness of his dress; his grey, venerable locks, blending with a pale but interesting countenance, in which an air of beauty was still visible, altogether excited attention, and I never knew a stranger come into the house without asking who he was.’"(3)

Dr. Lucas died in Henry-street, Dublin, the 4th November, 1771. His popularity in Ireland had been like and fully equal to that of Wilkes in England, and his funeral was honoured by the attendance of the lord mayor and principal members of the corporation of Dublin in their robes, of many members of both houses of Parliament, and of a vast assemblage of other persons. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Michan, Dublin, where there is a monument with the following inscription:—
To the Memory of
Charles Lucas, M.D.,
formerly one of the Representatives in Parliament
for the city of Dublin;
whose incorrupt integrity,
unconquered spirit,
just judgment
and glorious perseverance,
in the great cause of
Liberty, Virtue, and his Country,
endeared him to his grateful constituents.
This tomb is placed over his much-respected remains,
as a small yet sincere tribute of Remembrance
by one of his fellow-citizens and constituents,
Sir Edward Newenham, knight.
Lucas! Hibernia’s friend, her joy and pride,
Her powerful bulwark and her skilful guide,
Firm in the Senate, steady to his trust,
Unmoved by fear and obstinately just.*(4)

Lucas’s portrait was often engraved. By far the best and most characteristic is a mezzotinto by J. M'Arditt, from a half-length by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Passing by without notice Dr. Lucas's political writings and pamphlets, which were numerous, I confine myself to an enumeration of his medical works. In addition to the " Pharmacomastix " above-mentioned, he was the author of—
An Essay on Waters. In three parts. 8vo. Lond. 1756.
An Analysis of Dr. Rutty’s Methodical Synopsis of Mineral Waters. 8vo. Lond. 1757.
On a Physical Confederacy at Bath. 8vo. Lond. 1757.
Cursory Remarks on the Method of Investigating the Principles and Properties of the Bath and Bristol Waters. 8vo. Bath. 1764.

William Munk

[(1) Essay on Waters. Part iii, p.ccxiii. Dedication to Lord Chesterfield.
(2) Life of James, earl of Charlemont. 2nd edit. 2 vols. 8vo. 1812.
(3) Wills, James, Lives of Distinguished Irishmen. 5 vols. 8vo. Dublin. Vol. v, p. 153.
(4) This inscription was written by R. Lewis, author of the Post Chaise Companion through Ireland]

(Volume II, page 223)

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