[John Bunnell Davis, physician, founder of the Universal Dispensary for Children [now Royal Waterloo Hospital.] Autograph Letter Signed ('Jno B Davis M D') [to the trustees], tendering in odd terms his resignation from the 'valuable Institution'.

John Bunnell Davis (1777-1824), physician, founder in 1816 of the Universal Dispensary for Children [now Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women], London
Publication details: 
'103 Great Surry [sic] Street | Blackf[riar]s [London]. | July 1 1824'.
SKU: 21698

For Davis see Munk's Roll, the Gentleman's Magazine for January 1825, and I. S. L. Loudon's paper 'John Bunnell Davis and the Universal Dispensary for Children' (BMJ, 5 May 1979). The Universal Dispensary for Children, founded by Davis in 1816 and open to the under-twelves, was as Loudon points out 'the first major institution in England devoted solely to the care of sick children, 35 years before the first children's hospital in Liverpool, and 36 before Great Ormond Street'. The present letter dates from a few weeks before Davis's sudden death on 28 September 1824, shortly before the building of the Dispensary at St Andrew's Hill, Blackfriars, was completed. A significant letter, perhaps hinting at mental instability, in which Davis tenders his resignation in odd terms. (Loudon makes no mention of any resignation, nor does he give the cause of Davis's death.) 1p, 4to. In good condition, lightly aged, with thin strip of paper from mount adhering to the blank reverse. The letter reads: 'Gentlemen | In order that the Patients of the London Dispensary, under my care, may not suffer any inconvenience from my inability, from other professional avocations, henceforward to pay them that attention which I could wish, & their cases may require, I feel it my duty to lay before you my resignation, long contemplated, though deferred, from circumstances, to the present period, wishing continued success to a valuable Institution, in whose service, I have travelled two thirds of the distance round the World, & treated upwards of 15,000 Cases of Disease. | I remain | Gentlemen | Your obedient faithful Servt | Jno B Davis M D'. Davis's hospital went through a number of name changes before acquiring in 1903 the name it still bears, the Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women. From the distinguished autograph collection of the psychiatrist Richard Alfred Hunter (1923-1981), whose collection of 7000 works relating to psychiatry is now in Cambridge University Library. Hunter and his mother Ida Macalpine had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.