Old Print Article: “Death Of Eccentric Old Dr. Gruby” (1898)

You know the story about the Paris-based celebrity doctor who liked to prescribe sauerkraut, was Alexandre Dumas’ personal physician and kept a vicious pet monkey? No? Well, here it is, courtesy of the December 18, 1898 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Paris Bureau–All capitals contain so great a number of eccentric people that if we knew them all, we would still more readily come to the conclusion that there are more mad people outside than inside insane asylums.

It is probable the Paris does not contain as many as London, for it is known that for oddity and originality the English have the precedence; but such specimens as Dr. Gruby show that if the number is not as large as in Paris as in London, they, at least, are quite as capable to do as eccentric things and lead as eccentric lives.

Dr. Gruby was a physician who possessed all of the necessary diplomas, but he was called a healer. This country, like all other countries, in fact, is flooded with healers. Legitimate doctors do all in their power to bring them into disfavor, but vox populi is vox dei, and the more eccentric the healer seems to be and the more extraordinary his cures appear to the patients, the more they knock at his door to be healed.

“Alexandre Dumas would have no other doctor.”

There is not a French celebrity of any kind, within the last forty years, who, afflicted with any serious illness, has not gone to Dr. Gruby, and who was not dumbfounded when the healer prescribed carrots, sauerkraut or some other unheard of medicament with the grave countenance of a doctor who writes down the most complicated mixtures in an incomprehensible page of Latin words.

But faith was there. Had the healer not made the most remarkable cures? Were not such men as Alexandre Dumas and Ambroise Thomas there to testify that whatever surprising things the healer gave, they, one and all, were benefited by it?

He did not reserve all his oddities for his patients; he kept a great number for his own actions and behavior. One of them was that he never wanted to appear but in the best of health to all humanity, his servants included. He died at the age of 80, behind a locked door. He did not even admit his servants during his last two days of agony. He died in a dark room, without a streak of light, for he feared some curious eye might see him in the throes of death. At last the scared servants had the door forced open by the commissaire de police and they found but a cold corpse. The healer had drawn his last breath about twelve hours before.

Not so long ago, Mme. Ambroise Thomas was asked to tell us some eccentricities of the doctor. “Alexandre Dumas would have no other doctor, and for a long while, by the orders of Dr. Gruby, Dumas would start off on a morning constitutional with four apples in his pocket. The orders were to walk from the Avenue de Villiens to the Arch of Triumph and there stop to eat an apple; then to start again and walk to the Place de la Concorde, and stop there and eat another apple. He was to return to the Arch and eat his third apple, and take the fourth before his own door and have the last bite in his mouth before he crossed the threshold.

“And Dr. Gruby’s servants were allowed to be visible only at certain hours. He was passionately fond of animals and plants. He had dogs and cats and for a long time possessed a vicious monkey whom he called his brother, and who bit several of his friends.”•