You Might Dispense With Half Your Doctors If You Would Only Consult Doctor Sun More

Henry Ward Beecher? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous nineteenth-century clergyman, social reformer, and orator Henry Ward Beecher offered some intriguingly modern health advice. He felt that people should “consult Doctor Sun more”. They should frequently enjoy the open air, sunlight, and rain. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: On May 6th, 1860 Henry Ward Beecher spoke at Plymouth Church of New York City before the Brooklyn Young Men’s Christian Association. His speech on “Physical Culture” appeared in “The American Phrenological Journal”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There are here and there men found wise enough to take a portion of every day for some form of exercise—to live for hours in the open air every day. The very sun itself is doctor. I think you might dispense with half your doctors if you would only consult Doctor Sun more, and be more under the treatment of those great hydropathic doctors, the clouds! To be in the rain will do you good, if you only keep stirring. To be much in the open air every day, rain or shine, summer or winter, I consider one of the indispensable conditions of general health.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In June 1860 “The Press Tribune” of Chicago, Illinois printed extracts from the address by Beecher, and the text above was included with a slight modification. The phrase “these great” appeared instead of “those great”: 2

In 1862 Henry Ward Beecher published a collection of excerpts from his sermons and writings under the title “Royal Truths”. He included the following sentence: 3

I think you might dispense with half your doctors, if you would only consult Doctor Sun more, and be more under the treatment of these great hydropathic doctors, the clouds!

In 1884 “Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations” compiled by Edward Parson’s Day also included Beecher’s sentence with the phrase “those great”. 4

In 1898 self-help pioneer Orison Swett Marden published “The Secret of Achievement: A Book Designed to Teach”, and he included Beecher’s remark: 5

I think you might dispense with half your doctors, if you would only consult Doctor Sun more, and be more under treatment of these great hydropathic doctors — the clouds. — BEECHER.

In 1915 an instance appeared in “Forty Thousand Sublime and Beautiful Thoughts” compiled by Charles Noel Douglas. 6

In conclusion, Henry Ward Beecher should receive credit for the speech printed in “The American Phrenological Journal” in 1860. The quotation in “The Press Tribune” of Chicago, Illinois was slightly different. It contained the phrase “these great” instead of “those great”. Beecher’s own collection called “Royal Truths” used “these great”, so QI gives that version a small preference.

Image Notes: Silhouette of a woman together with the sun from Jill Wellington at Pixabay. The image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Nancy Leroy whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1860 August, The American Phrenological Journal, Volume 32, Number 2, Physical Culture: A Sermon by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, (Preached at Plymouth Church before the Brooklyn Young Men’s Christian Association on May 6th, 1860), Fowler and Wells Publishers, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1860 June 5, The Press Tribune (Chicago Tribune), Muscle and Morality: Extract from a Discourse by Henry Ward Beecher, Quote Page 3, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1862, Royal Truths by Henry Ward Beecher, Topic: Doctor Sun, Quote Page 41, Alexander Strahan and Company, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Google Books Full View) link
  4. 1884, Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations, Compiled by Edward Parson’s Day, Section: Doctor, Quote Page 198, Column 2, International Printing and Publishing Office, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  5. 1898 Copyright, The Secret of Achievement: A Book Designed to Teach by Orison Swett Marden, Chapter 13: The Art of Keeping Well, Quote Page 266, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  6. 1915 Copyright, Forty Thousand Sublime and Beautiful Thoughts, Compiled by Charles Noel Douglas, Topic: Physic – Physician, Quote Page 1305 and 1306, The Christian Herald: Bible House, New York. (Google Books Full View) link