April 3, 2013

The García Centenary


Manuel García (1805-1906)  by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)


The García Centenary, March 17th, 1905 

The toast was drunk with enthusiasm, and the company sang "For he's a jolly good fellow."  
Señor García, who was almost overcome by emotion said in response: Words, one has said, are given us to conceal our thoughts. They will admirably fulfill that purpose if you take mine as a full and complete expression of my feelings on this extraordinary occasion. But words, whatever use we make of them, are not mere masks. They are living things, intensely living things to some, to those of us who hold the magic ring that makes them slaves. They are as might friends, friends such as you to me, who from the ocean depths of your indulgence fling back to me my own poor words and trivial deeds, transfigured into something "rich and strange."  
At this point Señor García, who had become almost inaudible, and who was evidently somewhat exhausted by fatigue and excitement, handed the MMS. of his speech to the Chairman, who read the remainder as follows: There are so many of you to be greeted, old friends of out the past, old pupils, comrades, children! Ah, children! Sixteen societies of laryngologists, and mostly come of age, calling me "father!" They will have it so, and I am pretty proud of the title, I can tell you. Well, do you think one solitary man could find fit words to answer all these voices? But you can do it for me. There is an old story some of you may remember, which when I read it changed the aspect of things for me by its very name, for that is was a stroke of genius, Put Yourself in His Place. What a different world it would be if we all did that. Well, you try now. Try hard. Think yourselves each 100 years old to-day. Not the ladies, I will not ask them. Though they may come to that they will never look at it, and they will never know it, and no one will ever believe it. But you men can try. Fancy you each have lived 100 years, and woke to-day to find yourself surrounded by kindly clamorous voices, "troops of friends." What would you say? I think you would say nought. Only the infinite nought which circles all things could give an adequate answer to you all. I shall say nought to the great master of the brush, Mr. Sargent, who with two creative touches in a moment brought life from the void. It is a strange experience to see one's seeming spring out at one from nothing in a flash. I shall say nought to this rash friend of mine (Sir Felix Simon), who into the midst of a busy life crammed all the work and worry of the labour of love that has brought your here to-day; nought to the friends so very near to my heart, the Laryngological Society of London, and the chose band whose really terrible labours it fills me with remorse to think about- the members of the García Committee. I shall say nought, nought, nought to all of you, except just this, "God bless you every one." 


The Garcia Centenary, The British Medical Journal, March 25, 1905, p 681-689

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