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LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF LONDON LIFE
The interest which continues to be felt in everything connected with metropolitan society and manners, in conjunction with the remarkable success which his previous works on similar subjects has met with, has induced the Author to present the public with two more volumes illustrative of London Life. The work, it will be observed, is formed on the same plan and written in the same style as "The Great Metropolis," and "Travels in Town;" to which six volumes, indeed, it may be regarded as an indispensable companion.
London, October, 1841
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS.
MEDICAL QUACKS AND QUACKERY.
Prevalence of Quackery Origin of the word Fatal effects of Quackery The Prince of Empirics Consumption of Quack Medicines Expedients to which Quacks resort Specimens of their mode of Advertising Quacks of the Seventeenth Century Plausibility and effrontery of the Empirics of the present day Illustrations given Quacks generally appear under assumed names Hoaxes practised on Empirics The qualities necessary to successful Empiricism Quantity of Quack Medicines sold Power of the Imagination in effecting cures Instances of Empirical success Origin of the generality of Quacks.
THE late Dr. Unwins gave it as his deliberate
conviction, and that, too, on his oath in a court
of justice, that all the world are more or less
mad. The reward of this honest expression of
the worthy doctor's opinion, whether a right or [-2-]
a wrong one, was, that he himself was deemed
an insane person; and consequently, not only
suffered in his business, but was kept at a respectful
distance, wherever practicable, by many
of those with whom he had been formerly on the most friendly footing. I have heard a
similar opinion expressed on the subject of Quackery. I have heard it strenuously maintained,
that all men are more or less quacks,
and that no transaction in life takes place
without some considerable amount of quackery
being mixed up with it. I express no opinion
of my own on the point; I leave it to others
to decide whether or not the entire human
race, that is to say, those of them who have
matters of business to transact with their fellow-men are quacks, but of this I am persuaded,
that there is a much larger amount of quackery
in the world, and especially in England, and
more especially in London, than most men are,
in the habit of suspecting. The metropolis
swarms with quacks, though it sometimes gets
credit for being the most intelligent place in
the world. There is not a place in the United [-3-] Kingdom where the people are so easily duped;
where the facility of making victims on the
part of empirics is so great. As might therefore
be expected, persons of quackish dispositions
and quackish pursuits come trooping
into London from all parts of the country.
There is nothing too ridiculous for a London
population to swallow; nothing so absurd. that
they will not at once subscribe to it. Nor is
this predisposition to be duped by empirics,
this alacrity in reposing faith in the preposterous
promises and pledges of quacks, confined
to the lower or less informed part of the London
population. It is by no means uncommon
among the aristocracy, and those whose standing
in society implies more than the average
amount of education and intelligence. Who
does not remember the crowd of aristocratic
and fashionable witnesses, the host of lords
and ladies, who came forward, fourteen or
fifteen years ago in a court of justice, to bear
testimony in the capacity of his quondam
patients, to the distinguished, nay, the unparalleled
medical skill of the late St. John [-4-] Long? And is it not notorious, that at
very hour many of the higher classes are daily
becoming the easy dupes of empirics, in all departments of the medical profession? It
doubtful, indeed, whether the medical quacks
in London do not in at least some particular
branches of the profession enjoy a larger
amount of practice than the regularly-educated
and high-minded practitioners, who would
rather that a patient should never cross their
thresholds, than that they should sport with
the lives of their fellow-creatures, and do violence to their own feelings by resorting to
the unworthy expedients of empiricism with
the view of establishing or preserving a business.
The word quack is etymologically derived from the term "quack-salber," the German name for quicksilver; the only substance at one time made use of by unlicensed practitioners in the cure of diseases. Dr. Johnson represents the word as being, according to circumstances, a verb neuter, or noun substantive. When spoken of in the first-mentioned [-5-] part or speech, the great lexicographer defines it thus: "To cry as a goose or duck; to be boisterous or chatteringly vain." When viewed as a noun substantive, he defines the word as follows: "A vain and boastful pretender of medicinal and other arts." Something more, however, is necessary now-a-days to realize our views of a quack. A man must not only make high sounding pretensions in the department of empiricism in which he has chosen to appear, but he must support his pretensions with some degree of adroitness, and be more or less successful in duping the public.
Quacks of all kinds and from all parts of the world flock to London; the success or empirics in former days points it out as the grand field for quackery. In the provinces we hear comparatively little of empiricism; when it does exist in country towns, it manifests itself in a very modified form. The metropolis, indeed, is almost the only place in which it exists in its pure unadulterated state. Here it holds up its head without a blush; here it stalks abroad with most consummate effrontery. It [-6-] knows that nothing can be too gross, nothing sufficiently outrageous for a considerable part of the population. In fact, the bolder your experiments on public credulity, the greater is the probability of practising deception on them. There must be no half-measures: that would be the very way to render inevitable the failure of your speculations. "A faint heart never won fair lady," says the old song; the remark applies with still greater force in the case of quacks, when seeking to palm off their quack medicines. He who would personate the quack with success, must do so with an unmeasured and unmeasurable confidence and effrontery. Let a person only advertise that he means, at a given time and at a given place, to jump down his own throat, or eat off his own head, and he will attract a greater audience than ever assembled to witness the exploits of the late Sam Patch,* [*Sam was an American, who used to think no more of leaping from the mast of a ship into the sea, than he would of stooping down to tie his shoe. ] or any other [-7-] adventurer who undertakes to perform wonderful exploits but within the limits of possibility. In harmony with this hypothesis, it must have struck the mind of every person who ever bestowed a moment's meditation on the subject, that those quacks in the medical profession who have exhibited the most consummate effrontery in their pretensions to the healing art, have invariably distanced, in the race of competition, those empirics who have been more moderate in their professions of what they were competent to achieve. Who does not remember the extraordinary success of a quack who figured away some nine or ten years since, but who has now been some time in that unknown region to which he sent his patients in shoals, with an expedition far surpassing the alacrity which the body of Falstaff exhibited in finding its way to the bottom when tossed into the Thames at the mischievous instigation of Madams Foote and Page? He "rubbed" them out of existence, just as the schoolboy rubs out of his slate an arithmetical problem after he has solved it. Burns, [-8-] in detailing some of the marvellous exploits which Dr. Hornbook, a noted empiric of his day, achieved in the way of helping people into another world, speaks of a young woman whom he "sent to her long home," there to hide something which she wished to conceal. The quack to whom I refer, sent his patients to their "Long" home in a double sense. If an eldest son wished to get rid of an opulent father, he had only to prevail upon him, if labouring under some real or imaginary complaint, to submit to a sound "rubbing" at the hands of Mr. L, to insure his own succession to the property in the course of five or six weeks; very possibly in a much shorter time.
How many elder brothers have been put out of the way, through the rubbing or inhaling process, it is impossible to say. If a man wished to get quietly and expeditiously rid of a bad wife, he had only to persuade her, while the empiric in question was in the zenith of his professional glory, that she was indisposed, and that she should put herself under his care. [-9-] How tedious, and troublesome, and expensive would have been the process of divorce, compared with the empiric's mode of doing the business! And yet the more people he dispatched, in his own approved way, the greater were the numbers that flocked to his house, to consign themselves to his care. Nor were his dupes confined to the lower or more ignorant classes. The highest-born and highest-bred persons in the land trooped to the scene of his achievements, and unreservedly placed themselves in his hands. What mattered it that he notoriously had never studied the science of medicine for a single hour, nor knew any more of it as a system than did the chairs on which his patients reclined? What mattered it that he was proved to have been, a few years previously a common day-labourer, or something very like it? What signified this, when he came forward, with a bold and unblushing effrontery, and stoutly declared that he had discovered a remedy for every disease, no matter though the patient were within a step of death's door? Nothing more than this was wanting, except [-10-] that enviable presence of mind, which is not to be disconcerted, and the utter absence of that over-susceptibility of feeling which would distress the mind at the thought of having sent so many of his fellow-creatures on their tour into that undiscovered country mentioned by Shakespeare, as one from which no traveller returns.
But are there no such quacks in existence now? Why the world is full of them. London swarms with such persons; only that very few raise themselves into equal distinction, or acquire so large and lucrative a practice, as the empiric to whom I allude, enjoyed for years. There is at least one, now in the meridian of his reputation, who perhaps does business on a yet more extensive scale, though in a different way. The quack of ten or twelve years ago, eventually fell into the hands of the law, and suffered severe punishment for his traffic in human life; but the quack of 1841 is too cunning to be caught in that way. He neither prescribes nor administers medicine himself. He deems it enough that he prepares it: the administration of it he prudently leaves to [-11-] other persons called agents; and consequently when any "accident," which, being translated, means death, is clearly proved to have resulted from "an over dose;" they, and not he, must submit to the consequences. He, like his great predecessor, is also a universalist. Let me not be misunderstood. I do not mean that he holds that class of religious opinions indicated by the term universalist: what I mean is, that his medicines are represented as being of universal efficacy, or as possessing the power of curing all manner of diseases. There is not a malady under heaven, no, nor any where else, which does not promptly yield, if the manufacturer's word may be credited, to the more than miraculous potency of the wonderful medicine in question. It matters not though it be proved over and over again, in a court of law, that persons have died after taking a certain number of the little globular substances into which it is formed. The circumstance, when it does occur, is of easy explanation; the fault was not in the pills, it was in the unlucky patient who swallowed them. If he were [-12-] killed by taking ten of these pills at once, he ought to have taken twenty, and his recovery would have been both speedy and entire. If' he did take twenty, and died with a wonderful alacrity afterwards, his perfect restoration to health, in the short space of a few days, would have been as certainly the consequence of taking forty, as light is the effect of the sun's making his appearance in the firmament. After ages will doubt the fact that this empiric's medicine was in "universal" use in the second quarter of the nineteenth century; that it numbered among its practical patrons, persons who were in other respects shrewed and intelligent, and held a highly respectable station in society; and that the experiment on public gullibility succeeded so far as to be continued for fifteen or twenty years, enabling the empiric, in the course of that time, to pocket £150,000.
The personage to whom I have alluded is the grand empiric of the present day: he is the prince of contemporary quacks. There are many others who are very ingenious, and have [-13-] been very successful; but he has for years stood, taking all-in-all, quite unrivalled. It is not only that he will admit no rival near the throne, but no rival has made any advance worthy of the name of an approach to the seat of his sovereignty. How many quacks of the different genuses there may be in London altogether, it is difficult to say; but their name, as may be inferred from what I before stated, is legion. To some of them I shall afterwards have occasion to refer. Of medical quacks, men who know nothing of the first principles of medicine, who are at present living at the expense of the pockets, the health, and even lives of the more credulous portion of the metropolitan community, there are at least one hundred. I myself could mention the names of nearly fifty. I am sure I do not exaggerate when I say, that upwards of £200,000 are annually expended on the quack doctors and quack medicines of the metropolis.
The expedients to which some empirics have recourse with the view of humbugging the public, are infinitely diversified and, in many [-14-] instances, very ingenious. Advertising in the public journals is a favourite expedient. Some of their announcements are exceedingly curious in their way. They are in many cases lofty and confident in their tone; they undertake to cure every disease, however inveterate, in a mere fraction of time, at a trifling expense, and without the slightest pain or the least inconvenience to the patient. In other cases, the empirics find it the best policy to confine themselves to a few diseases; those of course most prevalent, and then to undertake to cure them in all their varied forms. Could a person only divest his mind for the time of the painful reflection, that these quacks are traffickers in human suffering and human life, to say nothing of their robbery of individuals who in thousands of cases pay their fees at the expense of their ordinary meals, he would enjoy with no ordinary zest the pompous pretensions and the inflated high-sounding terms in which their advertisements are drawn up. What could be more so than the following [-15-] which has been a standing advertisement for upwards of twenty years:
"As manhood approaches, the human form, countenance, voice, and the whole intellectual character, rapidly undergo a revolution. Love is the end and sum of life, creating image after image of ideal perfection. But in the present state of society, pure and virtuous enjoyment is often postponed and obstructed, till the excess of youthful impetuosity impels to a course of wild and injurious indulgence, and the mind becomes painfully harassed by alternations of fear, disgust, and passion. In this state relief is perhaps sought from the inexperienced, perhaps, from the ignorant; in either case at the expense of health, that being only palliated which should have been effectually cured. Here we propose to step in and rescue the victim of unwise indulgence from the pangs of remorse, disappointed hope and disease; and we pledge ourselves to eradicate every taint of poison; equally contemning unfeeling empiricism, which with reckless ignorance destroys where it should restore; [-16-] and, on the other hand, that unworthy 'principle' whose proud selfishness increases the embarrassment of the afflicted. All classes of society, not excepting the Anglo-Indian, but more especially such as are about to enter into matrimonial life, are included in the limits of this address; and to all we confidently offer the result of many years' successful practice. Daily attendance is given tar personal consultation; and immediate answers are returned to country letters, which must minutely describe the case, and contain a remittance for advice and medicine, which can be forwarded to any part of the world, however distant."
One very ingenious and now rather common mode of medical empirics beginning their advertisements, is to affect to be seized with a fit of virtuous indignation at their brother empirics, and to denounce them in the most unmeasured terms, at the same time earnestly cautioning the public against having anything to do with them.
But ingenious and full of the loftiest pretensions as are the advertisements of the me-[-17-]dical quacks of the present day, they fall far short in these respects of the empirics of the seventeenth century, who, I may here remark, judging from a collection of their advertisements which is now before me, have been a much more numerous tribe than the quack doctors of 1841. The ingenuity of the empirics of two hundred years ago in the framing of their advertisements, seems indeed to have been unbounded. There is no conceivable shape into which they did not put their announcements not even the form and style of act. of parliament were overlooked. One of them begins thus: "Whereas there is no vexatious illness more frequent than the toothache, and whereas, considering the many accidents which daily happen from drawing the teeth," &c., &c. The empiric then proceeds to state that he has an infallible remedy which cures the evil in an instant, and of course without the slightest pain. Another quack of the same period, rejoicing in the cognomen of Dr. Trigg, commences his advertisement thus: "Reader, be not so injurious to thyself' as [-18-] to commit this paper to any improper purpose, it designs thy good; therefore first read (three minutes performs the task), after which use thy discretion." Another rogue, aware that there was then, as now, a strong prejudice among the discerning part of the population against those who advertise their nostrums,∑ thus justifies himself in adopting that course: "Being but very lately arrived in this kingdom, and consequently a stranger, I could not propose a better method to make myself known than by this printed paper, without which, I might for some years have remained unknown to you, and so consequently unable of employing that talent which Heaven has bestowed on me for all your benefits and good. I question not but by the blessing of God, I shall be able to cure any distemper incident to womenkind, of a few of which I shall here give you an account.". The following commencement of a quack advertisement, about the same date as the foregoing, is curious enough in its way: " Salvator Winter, an Italian of the city of Naples, aged ninety-eight years, [-19-] yet, by the blessing of God, finds himself in health and strong as any one of fifty, as to the sensitive part; which first he attributes to God, and then to his Elixir Vitae, which he always carries in his pocket a-days, and at night under his pillow." Salvator then goes on to affirm, that his Elixir cures every malady to which the human frame is subject. On boards at the doors and windows of the gin palaces of the metropolis, underneath the price of some particular poison in the shape of ardent spirits, we daily encounter an invitation to "taste, try, judge, and compare." The idea is a plagiarism from the quack doctors of the seventeenth century, for I find many of them heading their hand-bills thus: -" Read, try, judge, and speak as you find." In one of the instances in which the above is the heading to a bill, I find the following earnest appeal to the reader, on the part of the empiric, in the form of poetry :-
Dear friends, let your disease be what God will,
Pray to him for a cure - try Case's skill;
[-20-]Who may be such a healing instrument,
As will cure you to your heart's content,
His medicines are cheap and truly good,
Being well as safe, as your daily food.
Case,* he can do what may be done by
Either physic, or true astrology.
His best pills, rare elixir and powder,
Do each praise him louder and louder.
Dear countrymen, I pray you be so wise,
When men backbite him, believe not their lies,
But go see him, believe your own eyes.
Then he will say, you are honest and kind
Try before you judge, and speak as you find.
[*The Quack's name]
I shall only give one more quotation from
the quack advertisements of the seventeenth
century. It will be seen that the practice of
denouncing brother empirics is no new idea. "In Bartholomew Close, at the sign of the
Red Ball, with two black posts at the door,
near unto Smithfield Gate, lives an expert
operator, who, by the blessing of God, his
many years' travels, and large experience in
foreign countries, hath attained so many rare
secrets in physic, by which he hath performed [-21-]
wonderful cures on many hundreds of people.
There never were more pretenders to the cure
of than there are now; but friends, have
a care how you fall into the hands of such
ignorant pretenders, for if they once but get
you into their clutches, they will use you as
unmercifully as they are unskilful; therefore
be not ashamed to seek help in time; come
to me, for the disease is soon cured by him
that hath the right way (if you use him), for
he is not one that cures by chance, or keeps
you physicking months together."
The quacks of two hundred years ago were as happy at christening their nostrums as the empirics of the present day. What could be more felicitous than the following: "Panoplia Medica, or a Medical Armour for the whole body;" especially when accompanied by such details as these: "Which is proof against the invasion of sickness and assault of destroying diseases; being composed of the greatest arcana and select medicines in the whole practical part of physic, whose virtues are not to be exceeded by any; of safe use, an easy pur-[-22-]chase, always ready to give relief to persons of all conditions in the greatest emergencies, and even extremes of sickness." It will be observed that this empiric, who called himself Dr. Andrews, went a step farther than any of our modern quacks; for they only undertake the cure of diseases, whereas, his medicine was infallibly efficacious in preventing diseases of any kind.
The extent to which the more noted quacks of 1841 advertise must appear utterly incredible to those who are not aware of it. They have advertisements which appear three or four times in the daily papers, and in all the weekly ones which will admit them. In this way alone some of them pay upwards of £1000. in the course of a year. Then the issue of little bills is enormous. One man, standing in a particular spot, where the thoroughfare is large, will give away ten thousand copies in one day! And some of the most notorious empirics have several men in their constant employ for this purpose, in addition to those peripatetic advertisements in the form of large [-23-] boards on persons' shoulders, which meet our gaze in whatever locality of the metropolis we may chance to be.
Some years ago a favourite medium of advertising with the medical empirics of London, was chalking the name and address of the quack on dead walls, in the town and suburbs. This mode has now fallen into comparative desuetude; not however, it ought to be: observed, from any indisposition on the part of the quacks to patronise it, but because there are now either fewer dead walls than before to afford a field for chalking operations, or, because the vigilance of the new police renders it impossible to get the operations clandestinely performed.
But advertising in either or all of the above modes is not the only way in which empirics bring themselves into notice. In fact, advertising, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, is viewed by many of them as but a commonplace, if not a decidedly vulgar way of getting one's self into practice. Many of them manufacture some small unintelligible affair in the [-24-] shape of four or five sheets of paper and print, which they dignify with the name of a book; and which, with the author, is puffed into notice by means of paragraphs in the newspapers that, to the eyes of the uninitiated and inexperienced in such matters, have the appearance of coming directly from the editor, but which are duly paid for, and also written by the empiric himself, provided he be capable of stringing three or four sentences of passable English together: if not, he employs some one to do it for him. There lately lived, on the south side of Oxford Street I do not know what has become of him now an empiric who professed to cure all diseases of the ear, and who surpassed all the other quacks I ever knew, in the article of advertising himself at the cheapest rate, considering the effectual way in which he did it. He was constantly on the look-out among his patients for hapless authors, literary men, or other persons in any way connected with the press; and the moment he discovered any of the "lettered" or philosophical fraternity, he called all his cun-[-25-]ning and ingenuity into full play, with the view of turning them to what he called his professional account. If they had influence enough, directly or indirectly, over any journal, to get a puff of the empiric inserted gratis, much the better; but if they should not be able to do that, it would, he used to say, go hard indeed, if they could not assist him in drawing up a neat paragraph, which some other patient, when put into his hand, cut and dry, would get published in some newspaper or periodical into whose columns he might have access. Some years ago an acquaintance of mine, labouring under a defect of hearing, waited on the empiric in question. The former was instructed to sit down in a chair, and having, in that respect, promptly attended to the commands of his medical monitor, the latter commenced an examination of the ear, and afterwards had recourse, for about a quarter of a minute or so, to the farce of poking in it with an instrument which I am incompetent to describe. "The loss of one's [-26-] hearing is a great calamity," bawled the empiric into the other's ear, with as self-consequential and oracular an air, as if he had made some marvellous discovery of infinite practical importance.
"It is, indeed," sighed the other.
"Very great misfortune, certainly, " resumed the quack.
"It is particularly so to me," observed the patient.
"I don't doubt it, sir, I don't doubt it, sir," pursued the empiric. "Pray, do you follow any particular profession?"
"I am a reader in a newspaper office," answered my acquaintance.
"A reader in a newspaper office, did you say, sir," remarked the quack, suspending, all of a sudden, the poking process, while his eye and countenance lighted up with exultation at the words.
The patient repeated his statement.
"What is the paper, pray, that you are connected with?"
[-27-] "The 'Public Ledger,' sir."
"Oh then," remarked the quack, his eye gleaming with ineffable delight, and tossing the instrument for clearing the tunnel of people's ears aside, "Oh, then, perhaps you could get this little paragraph inserted in that journal." And so saying, Dr. G handed his patient a small paragraph prepared for the occasion, surcharged with his own praise as a professional man.
"I have no connexion with the editorial department of the paper," remarked the young man, "otherwise, I should be glad if I could serve you."
"Oh! but of course you know. the editor, and if you ask the insertion of the paragraph as a favour to yourself, he will put it in at once."
"I could not use so much freedom," remonstrated the other mildly.
"Well, then, you surely are on friendly terms with the sub-editor, and you can easily manage the matter through him."
[-28-] The young man replied that the sub-editor had only been a week in the office, and that he had not the slightest personal acquaintance with him.
"But you don't mean to say that you have no influence with the printer of the paper?" said the empiric.
"I have some personal acquaintance with him, certainly," answered the other hesitatingly.
"Oh, then, there's not the least doubt that he'll get the editor to insert it, if you only speak to him about it. Will you do me the favour?"
There was no way of escaping the importunities of the ingenious empiric; and the other muttered a reluctant promise, at the same time taking up his hat and putting his hand into his pocket.
"Two guineas, sir, is the fee," said this incarnation .of cunning .and quackery, his fingers quivering in a paroxysm of impatience to clutch the circulating medium.
[-29-] On the fee being deposited in his hand he rang the bell, by way of intimation to the servant to open the door. "You'll take care that the paragraph appears," remarked the quack, as his patient was in the act of quitting the room.
"I'll do what I can, sir," returned the other.
"And to-morrow, if possible?"
"Call on me again in a few days if your hearing be not improved; its only half-a-guinea for the second visit."
The young man made a slight inclination of his head. "Then good morning, sir."
The same empiric had a singularly wonderful genius for forcing himself, in his professional capacity, into notice. In the outset of his career, it was his practice to detain the few patients who strayed into his house, in a room below, for two or three hours, pretending that he was busily engaged with patients up-stairs, and was consequently unable to give∑ them the benefit of his skill with that promp-[-30-]titude which he could wish; and, to practise the deception with the greater success, he had two servants in his employ, who were instructed to make it their special duty to go out and in, loudly knocking at the door and ringing the bell, at certain intervals of time, whenever there were any patients in the room below. This had the desired effect. The parties who came to consult him were deluded into the notion, that he must have an immensely large practice, and, consequently, be a first-rate aurist. These impressions were, of course, communicated to others; and the result was, that the quack eventually brought himself into a large and lucrative business.
I will only mention one other instance of the ingenious expedient. to which this quack was in the habit of resorting for the purpose of getting patients before he had acquired a practice. Whenever he chanced to meet with any person who did not distinctly hear any word which passed in the course of conversation, he laboured with the zeal of an apostle, to convince the party that the circumstance [-31-] was symptomatic of incipient deafness, and that if the tendency was not promptly checked by some skilful hand taking special care it should be understood he meant his own it would eventually end in confirmed deafness. In this way, and also by advising them, in particular cases, to read a small empirical pamphlet which he had published on the subject of deafness, he drew a great number of patients to his house.
The late Dr. E, who died four years ago was one of the most inveterate advertisers that ever belonged to the empirical fraternity. Not content with cramming the columns of the metropolitan journals with eulogiums on his own humanity and his unprecedented and miraculous medical skill, he was in the habit of deluging the town with his hand-bills. Wherever you chanced to be, in city ,or suburb, in the crowded thoroughfare, or the more retired streets or lanes, the everlasting paper of Dr. E, was thrust into your hand. Nor were these the only ways in which the public were assailed by announcements of the infal-[-32-]lible nostrums of the quack. You could not open your eyes on any dead wall or old house without encountering his name and residence; each letter as large and as white as if it had been the rogue's own ghost. Then, again, you had no sooner withdrawn your eyes from the chalk letters on the wall, than you knocked your head against a board carried on a man's shoulders, containing the same eternal intimation of where Dr. E was to be consulted. But the drollest and most ingenious of all the modes which this clever empiric resorted to, with the view of duping the good people of London, remains to be told; and it is one which would never have occurred to the mind of any other person. He caused 80,000 little pieces of copper to be struck off, with as close a resemblance to farthings as it was possible to give them, without actually rendering himself liable to a prosecution at the instance of the mint authorities. On the one side was a representation of his own bust, encircled by his name and address; on the other was a figure which was very similar to a Brittannia, [-33-] riding triumphantly on the waves. "The little coppers," as the doctor called them, passed current as farthings, with the same facility as the real coinage known by that name. The metropolis was full of them; yon could not get the balance of the sixpence you produced for your pint of beer, or of the shilling yon laid down on the counter of some grocer, wherewith to purchase your pound of sugar, without receiving among the change, one or more of Dr. E's coppers. In fact, the doctor was quite an ubiquitous personage. He was the first gentleman you saw at the breakfast table when you took up your morning paper. He encountered you the moment you crossed your threshold, in thin small pieces of paper on the dead walls and on boards on men's shoulders; and, not content with this, he must needs find his way into your pockets; for, if you were not above keeping at times a portion of the coarser coinage, it was ten to one but you found the medical worthy quite comfortable in the society of your copper George Rexes. Byron was at the [-34-] time at the height of his reputation, and his works were in general circulation; but Byron's name could hardly be said to be known at all in the metropolis, compared with that of Dr. E. Of the latter it could be said with a truth and emphasis unprecedented in the case of any contemporary whatever the reigning monarch himself, perhaps, excepted that his name was a household word. To such an extent was it in people's mouths, in people's ears, in people's hands, in people's eyes, in people's pockets, that a foreigner must have come to one of two conclusions either that the population of London were all ill together, or that there was a deplorable lack of physicians.
Quack doctors are often made the subject of hoaxes of a rather annoying kind. A titled empiric to whom I have already referred as the presiding genius over a mock board of physicians, was doomed to receive an unusual share of these. One of the most laughable, and at the same time harmless of the many hoaxes played off at his expense, which have been [-35-] mentioned to me, was the following: Mr. Hoaxum, a young wag, called on him one day, and expressed & wish to have the benefit of the empiric's medical skill.
"Take a chair, sir" said the latter, politely motioning the stranger to that very useful article of household furniture.
Mr. Hoaxum seated himself.
"I perceive sir, you are very ill," observed the quack.
"I ought to have been here long before now," replied Mr. Hoaxum.
"Ah!" remarked the empiric in tones of infinite self-complacency "Ah! you are like too many, sir; you stay away as long as you can, endangering your very life by trusting yourself in the hands of unskilful pretenders before you consult me. But you are obliged to come at last you see, sir."
The quack pulled himself up as he spoke, and strutted with . all the mock majesty of "a turkey in wet grass," several steps through the room.
[-36-] "I certainly have too long delayed committing myself to your care, Dr. ; but I hope it is not now too late," observed the young man, in accents which would have done credit to the most sincere and profound penitent.
"Well, I hope so too," replied the quack; "but judging from your appearance, it is a very bad case, a very bad case, indeed, sir."
"I am quite aware of that, doctor."
"Perhaps you will have the goodness to state your case, sir?"
The wag affecting to be seized with a fit of bashfulness, held down his head and remained silent.
"Oh, sir, you must not give way to any mistaken modesty. 'That may greatly aggravate the extremity of the case; it may be attended with serious consequences."
"Then, doctor, I'm afraid I am far gone in ." Here Mr. Hoaxum paused as if afraid to reveal the alarming character of his illness.
[-37-] "Oh, I see," said the quack, giving a significant shake of the head. "Oh, I see how it is; this is a case for the consideration of the Board. There must be a consultation in this case, there must, indeed, sir; you'd better step into the other room where the Board are now sitting."
Doctor B led the way, and the other followed. The door was opened with great formality, and he was ushered into the presence of some half-dozen of the "first physicians in Europe."
"Gentlemen," said the empiric, addressing himself with the greatest self-importance and with much emphasis to the Board "Gentlemen, the case of this young gentleman is a very serious one. Will you," added the doctor turning to the wag, "have the goodness to state it to the Board?"
"Aye, do, sir," said one.
"Aye, let us hear it;" chimed in the others in a sort of discordant chorus.
"I've got the case in my pocket gentlemen," remarked the young man.
[-38-] "The Board" stared at each other in amazement, and for some seconds maintained an unbroken silence.
"I beg your pardon, sir," observed the master empiric, breaking the silence which prevailed. "I beg your pardon, sir, but I did'nt quite comprehend you; neither, I am sure, does either of my distinguished brethren."
"We do not," said one and all.
"Perhaps you -would have the kindness to explain yourself?"
"I'm sorry, gentlemen, I should have expressed myself so obscurely. What I mean is, that I have got a full detail of the circumstances connected with my disease, written on a sheet of paper in my pocket."
"Oh!" groaned one.
"Oh, that's it, is it?" growled two or three others; while the remainder simultaneously observed, "I see," "I understand," and so forth.
"Perhaps, then, you will read the case to the Board," suggested the leading quack.
[-39-] "I would rather some of you gentlemen, would do it yourselves," replied the wag.
"Dr. Hodman, perhaps you will be so obliging as to read the case to the Board," said Dr. Guff, addressing himself to one of the empirical brotherhood.
"Is it written in a plain legible hand?" inquired Dr. Hodman, addressing himself to Mr. Hoaxum.
"It is," returned the latter.
"Then, sir, will you oblige me with it?" said Dr. Hodman, putting out his hand to receive the manuscript.
The "case," which was neatly folded, and carefully sealed, was handed to Dr. Hodman, and received by him with all due solemnity.
Mr. Hoaxum then took up his hat, and was in the act of quitting the room, when the chieftain of the empiric band begged he would stay while the case was read, lest it should be necessary to put some questions to him respecting particular symptoms of his complaint.
"I would rather retire for a few minutes," observed Mr. Hoaxum, with much seeming [-40-] bashfulness, "to afford you time to read, deliberate, and consult."
"That must not be," observed Dr. Guff, with considerable energy; "you must remain in the room to answer questions, while my excellent friend is proceeding with the reading of the case."
"I am under the necessity, gentlemen, of retiring for a few moments. I can answer any question on my return."
"Very good, sir," said Dr. Guff. Mr. Hoaxum in the mean time quitting the room.
Scarcely had the door been shut, when the prince of empirics hastily broke open the little package. Underneath the envelop, there was a second envelop, carefully sealed and without any writing on the back. It was broken open and disclosed a precisely similar half-sheet of paper duly sealed, but equally unstained by the application of the pen.
"The Board" began to feel amazed, and to look upon "the case" as "wrapped up" in mystery. A farther breach of the package was made with the same effect. A fifth followed, [-41-] and behold the same result was witnessed. Still the work: of breaking up every successive layer of white paper proceeded the interest and the mystery of the matter deepening an the time in the minds of "the Board," until the operator came to the twelfth. and last; when, to the utter amazement of the entire conclave, but especially of Dr. Guff, himself, one of his own hand-bills, three inches by two, wretchedly printed on the coarsest quality of paper, stood revealed to their new. To depict the countenances of the "Board," at witnessing this finale to a case which had been brought before them under so much mystery and with no inconsiderable pomp of circumstance, were impossible. It was fortunate for the wag that he did not remain to witness the last act of his hoax; had he done so, the enraged "physicians" would, in a few seconds, have done with their hands and feet, what in thousands of other cases they had done by the slower process of their quack prescriptions,. namely, sent him to another world to try his waggeries or hoaxes there.
[-42-] The late Dr. E was another of the quack fraternity at whose expense hoaxes were often played off. He was a personage of diminutive proportions; and, so far from subverting the generally received theory, that little men are particularly conceited, and persons of great importance in their own eyes, furnished a marked confirmation of it. He contrived to deceive himself so far as really to believe that he was the most skilful medical man in Christendom; but, what was better still, he managed, by dint of persevering and universal puffing, to make a large portion of the lower classes arrive at the same conclusion. He dined at aristocratic hours, and, in all respects aped the manners of the great, as far circumstances would allow. Of course, then, he was not to be consulted after certain hours. Persons ignorant of the empiric's notions on these matters, often called at his house in Soho, after the professional hours, but were never admitted to the honour of an interview nor received∑ the benefit of his advice. They were invariably told to call again to-morrow, [-43-] between the hours of ten and six. One day, a young gentleman, of the name of Maxwell, who was exceedingly partial to a joke at the expense of pretenders of any kind, made a wager with an acquaintance, that he would not only obtain admission into Dr. E's house, between half-past six and seven o'clock on a particular evening, but that he would succeed in persuading the quack that he was labouring under serious illness. On the evening appointed, he proceeded to No. , D Street; and, giving quite an aristocratical knock at the door, one of the maids made her appearance.
"Is Dr. E. within?" inquired Mr. Maxwell.
"He is, but cannot be seen just now, sir."
"But I must see him."
"Can't, sir: he's at dinner just now, and never sees any one after this hour."
"But I want to see him on business of the utmost importance, and must see him presently."
"Well, sir," observed the servant, in a desperate tone, struck with the unusual de-[-44-]termination of the party, I'll go up stairs and tell master. Who shall I say wants him, sir ?"
"Sir Charles Broadhurst."
Her maidship sprang up-stairs, and apprised the empiric of the state of matters at the door.
"No mistake as to the name?" inquired Dr. E, exulting in the thought of having a baronet for his patient.
"Quite sure, sir, that's what he called himself," answered Mary.
"Is he genteelly dressed?" pursued the quack, laying down his knife and fork, which but an instant before had been busily engaged in the commendable employment of cutting up a "reeking-hot" goose, the very sight of which would have rejoiced the heart of Epicurus himself had he only chanced to flourish in Dr. E''s day, and been in his drawing-room on this particular occasion. "Is he genteelly dressed?"
"Quite genteel, sir; a perfect gentleman in appearance," replied the maid.
[-45-] "Then show him up-stairs to the .drawing room."
Mary did as she was desired, and the supposed baronet was forthwith ushered into the presence of the illustrious quack, who had retired. into the drawing-room to receive him. Dr. E had snatched up a book, and pretended to be perusing it with the .deepest interest when the other was introduced. "Dr. E, I presume?" said Mr. Maxwell.
"E is my name, sir," said the quack. with infinite self-complacency, and only condescending to give a slight inclination of his head, as the stranger spoke.
"My name has been mentioned to you by your maid, .1 believe?"
"It has, Sir Charles."
"I'm come to consult you on a very urgent and serious case. Dr. E."
"So I understand, Sir Charles, and that alone induced me to depart from my rule of not seeing .anyone professionally after six o'clock."
[-46-] "I assure you, Dr. E," said the other, putting his hand to his breast, and making a low bow," I assure you, that I deeply appreciate the honour of an interview under such circumstances. Nothing but the urgency of the case could have induced me to break in on your hours of relaxation from the pressure of professional duties."
"Ours is a very arduous and onerous profession, sir," remarked the empiric, pressing his chin consequentially between the two fore fingers and thumb of his left hand.
"I am quite persuaded of that, doctor."
"Well, Sir Charles, about this case?" pursued the quack.
"Oh, it's a very serious case; a very bad case, indeed."
"Aye, I can perceive you're very ill."
"I'm afraid, doctor, it's an incurable case."
"Not at all, Sir Charles; don't allow yourself to imagine any thing of the kind. I'm confident that if once a short time in my [-47-] hands, the disease under which you labour will be entirely removed."
"Doctor, you delight me; you inspire me with hope, though but a few minutes ago I viewed my disease as altogether hopeless."
"While there's life there's hope. I have been the instrument of curing thousands, who, in their own estimation, and in the estimation of their friends, were on the very verge of the grave."
"What an abundant source of supreme gratification and of solid satisfaction, must such a reflection prove to a philanthropic mind!"
Dr. E's countenance seemed to expand with self-complacency, as his patient spoke.
"I have heard a great deal of the wonderful cures you have performed, doctor."
The empiric moved his chair a few inches nearer his patient, and, taking his spectacles from his nose, gave them three or four hearty rubs' with his pocket handkerchief.
[-48-] "Very wonderful cures, indeed, doctor," continued the other.
"I have been honoured by Providence to relieve suffering humanity in extreme cases," remarked the quack, looking fifty per cent. more consequential than he usually was; though, as before observed, always a personage of unusual self-importance.
"The case I have come to consult you about is "
"Is the ," interrupted the quack, as if ambitious of showing his superior discernment.
"No, that is not it; its much worse than that."
"Then it is ;" observed Dr. E, naming a very aggravated form of a very alarming disease.
"That's not it, yet," answered the patient.
"That is bad enough, but my disease is still worse."
"Indeed, Sir Charles," remarked. the doctor, in great seeming amazement; "you don't [-49-] surely mean to say," he continued, "that you are labouring under "
"No, Dr. E, that is not my complaint."
"Then, sir," said the empiric, with considerable tartness, as if his vanity had been hurt at the circumstance of his professional knowledge being at fault in his efforts to discover the malady under which his patient was suffering; "then, sir, pray what, in the name of wonder, is your disease?"
"I'm almost ashamed to name it, doctor."
"There must be no false delicacy, Sir Charles. Mention it at once."
The other hesitated as if his feelings of delicacy had been unequal to the task of making the disclosure.
"It is indispensable before prescribing," resumed the quack," "that I should know your malady."
"Say what it is at once, Sir Charles."
"I'm afraid there is no cure for it," remarked the patient.
[-50-] "You're mistaken, air; I cure all diseases : even the most desperate cases."
"If you can cure my malady, your fame will be extended throughout the civilized world; and your name will be handed down to posterity as the most illustrious benefactor of mankind that ever appeared on earth."
Dr. E only became the more impatient to have an opportunity of learning what the mysterious disease was, and of bringing all his medical skill to bear on it.
"And you will, at the same time, increase your practise fifty fold. Yes, Dr. E, if you can effect a cure in my case, you will, in less than a month, number half the population of London among your patients."
The countenance of the empiric brightened up at the idea of so vast an accession to his business. "Pray, Sir Charles," he said, with a burning impatience, "pray do tell me what your disease is?"
"Then, doctor, the disease under which I labour is a disease of the pocket!"
"A what sort of disease, sir?"
[-51-]"A disease of the pocket."
"I don't understand you, sir," observed the quack, with considerable warmth, the idea beginning to flash across his mind that the other was trifling with him.
"I've spent all my fortune, and I'm now steeped to the ears in poverty. Dr. E, can you cure that disease. It is the worst to which humanity can be subject."
The empiric was unable, in the excess of his indignation to utter a word; his face turned blue, and for some seconds he seemed as if he would choke from sheer rage. The other snatching up his hat, hurried down stain and rushed out at the door, before the doctor had time to recover himself.
One of the most ingenious and successful expedients ever resorted to with the view of practising on the gullibility of the metropolitan public was hit upon by a quack, who is still alive, and living in great splendour at the West End, on the princely fortune he acquired by his well-conducted empiricism. Being of the humblest birth and origin, and unac-[-52-]quainted with even the most common rudiments of education, he, before commencing business, had the tact to employ a person of dissipated habits, who had been regularly trained up to the medical profession, and to whom a few shillings were everything, to instruct him how to use a certain number of medical terms and professional phrases. Having mastered this preliminary task, he engaged, for six months, at so much per week, six persons, some of whom were porters, and others day-labourers; and, as an inducement to keep the secret, and skilfully to act the part he should allot to them, he held out to them the strong probability of their situations being permanent. These half-dozen persons, not one of whom could read or write, he formed into a Board of Health, to sit daily from ten o'clock till three; while during, the remainder of the day, they were to "make themselves useful" by carrying boards on their shoulders, containing the name and address, and profession of their master; or distributing lilliputian hand-bills, announcing his miraculous medical skill in all diseases, [-53-] and also the fact that his patients should, in all cases of importance, have the benefit, for a small extra charge, of any advice of his "Board of Health," consisting of the "first physicians in Europe." Previous to this, however, I ought to have observed, he had carefully tutored the Board how they were individually to act. They were' instructed never, on any account, to venture a remark of their own on any case, . or in the presence of any patient, but simply to concur in every opinion he expressed, or observation he made, either in audible accents, or by the silent but not less expressive language, of a nod of the head. In order to carry out the idea to its greatest practicable extent, and to make the aspect of the Board as imposing as possible, this arch empiric provided suits of black clothes for them of the first quality, together with a fashionable cane for each. The clothes were doffed and the canes laid aside, in an adjoining room, as soon as the various consultations for the day were over; and the " first physicians in Europe" were obliged to encase [-54-] themselves again in their dirty, tattered, and threadbare apparel, and resume the undignified employment of carrying large boards on their shoulders, and distributing hand-bills. The thing took amazingly. Whenever a patient waited on the quack, whom the latter deemed one who was in circumstances to pay a little in the shape of extra fees for medical advice, he was invariably told that his case was one of great importance, and must be referred to the Board of Health. Into the presence of their medical highnesses, the patient was accordingly forthwith ushered. There they sat, around a large table, in solemn affectedly solemn conclave, leaning on their canes, and looking wondrously wise and attentive, while their chieftain was asking the patient questions respecting the nature and manifestations of his malady. They, of course assented to everything he advanced by way of opinion, either as to the case itself or as regarded the mode of treatment to be adopted. In a short time, the fame of the Board of Health, over the water, (for its locality was on [-55-] the Surrey side of the river) soon extended itself far and wide, and patients flocked from all parts of the metropolis to receive the advice of half'-a-dozen of the "first physicians in Europe, " which, I ought not to omit to state, was to be had at a remarkably low rate, considering the usual charges of physicians. The Board existed for many years, and was only dissolved when the proprietor of the establishment thought fit to retire from business, after having made a princely fortune by his ingenious quackery.
It is a fact not generally known, that all medical quacks appear before the public under assumed names. I have not been able to discover a single instance to the contrary. The real name of the late empiric, so well known under the cognomen of Mr. St. John Long, was Driscoll. And the Jordans and Gosses, and the other names which are at present familiar to the public eye and ear, in connection with medical empiricism, are also all fictitious. One of the most notorious of the existing race of quacks has changed his name [-56-] at least a dozen times, having made as many as ten or eleven unsuccessful attempts to establish himself as an empiric. Proteus himself did not assume so many forms as some of the quack fraternity assume names, when defeated in their efforts to impose on the public. Nor is it their names only that they change; they often vary the "line of business" in which they appear before the community. There is now living in one of the streets leading out of Oxford Street, a consummate quack, who makes experiments with great success on public ignorance and credulity, in the capacity of a physician that can cure all manner of diseases who previously: appeared in almost every conceivable department of medical charlatanism, always professing to confine himself exclusively to each particular department. He commenced as an eye-doctor; but that would not do: then he appeared, but with no greater success, as an aurist: a year or two afterwards, he undertook the cure of the toothache, without extraction, or indeed without any thing. Still the speculation did not answer. [-57-] He eventually tried, with no better fortune, every other branch of the medical profession, and at last found that to be a universalist, a doctor who could cure every disease brought under his notice, was the only way in which he could hope to fill his pockets by gulling the public. With each profession, this ingenious empiric changed his name, and also his residence; in two or three instances, indeed, he changed, if there be propriety in the expression, his country; for he suffered his beard to grow into luxuriant mustachios, and, having thus acquired something of the external aspect of a foreigner, he represented himself as Monsieur Malletron, from Paris.
In several instances, the medical quacks of the metropolis have two or three separate establishments, in different parts of the town, under different names. In cases, however, where the empirics are anxious to make a fortune at the public expense in the shortest possible period of time, and where they have succeeded under a particular name, a second establishment is opened at a remote part of [-58-] the town under the same name. The late Dr. E, before referred to, having succeeded beyond. all reasonable expectations in his efforts to gull, or, as he used to say, "gammon" the public, at his establishment in the neighbourhood of Oxford Street, opened another, under the same charmed name, in a street on the other side of the water, leading from Blackfriars Road to Waterloo Road. The most amusing part of the affair, as showing the amazing ease and facility with which the metropolitan community can be gulled. was, that Dr. E, daily announced in the newspapers, on the dead walls, by boards borne through the streets on men's shoulders, and by lilliputian hand-bills, circulated and thrust into every body's hand who passed along the great thoroughfares, that he was to be consulted at precisely the same hours in either place. It never seemed to occur to the mind of poor, simple, unsuspecting John Bull, that miraculous as was the medical skill of Dr. E, (that is to say, taking his own word for it) he did not posses the attribute of [-59-] ubiquity, and consequently could not be consulted at one and the same moment, in Soho and Blackfriars Road places nearly two miles distant. Oh, no; the credulous unsuspicious public never thought of any such physical impossibility. The gulls who wanted to see Dr. E in Soho, called .for Dr. E in Soho, and some personage or other promptly answered to the name and personated the character of the quack; while the simpletons who invoked the assistance of Dr. E in the neighbourhood of Blackfriars Road, were as expeditiously waited on by another rogue glorying in the name of the same important personage.
Ignorance, impudence, and assurance, are the cardinal qualities which are indispensable to successful quackery; and they are qualities which are generally found in close alliance with each other. The man of education, or of a cultivated mind, will never make a successful empiric. Indications of science would, every now and then, be oozing out, which would prove fatal to his assumed character. [-60-] Impudence and assurance are still more essential to successful quackery. If the charlatan were to betray the slightest symptoms of confusion or embarrassment, either when a patient is dying in his hands, or has already expired through the effects of his medicine or his treatment, he is manifestly incompetent for the office he has undertaken. His failure is a matter of moral certainty. He must view all such occurrences as matters of course, and unblushingly affirm, that the parties were in the last stage of dissolution, and on the very verge of the grave, however little themselves or friends may have suspected it, before being placed under his care. If the quack be asked by anyone the disease under which his patient labours, his impudence must come to his aid, and he must protest, with all the confidence of an oracle, that it is a particular malady, giving some name or other, no matter whether the terms employed are to be found in medical vocabularies or not. In fact, it is generally the wisest and safest course to invent some jargon for the occasion; only taking care that [-61-] the words flow fluently from the mouth. The more strange and unintelligible the terms made use of, so much the better; the patient not being, of course, in a condition to prove that there is no such disease, nor any such mode of describing it; and being consequently, in excellent condition to come to the conclusion that the quack is a first-rate physician, just as the erudite pedagogue did in the case of the Irish tutor, who, when the latter spoke in the Irish language, took it at once for granted, that because he did not understand the pretended tutor, he must of necessity be a prodigy of learning.
It were much to be desired that some authentic information were accessible respecting the number of deaths which annually result from the effects of metropolitan quackery. Unhappily, however, no such information is to be had; nor is it likely it ever will be obtainable; for there are no means of ascertaining the number of patients who entrust their lives in the hands of empirics. That the amount of mortality attributable to the agency of these [-62-] persons is great, is unfortunately a too well attested fact. That fifteen or twenty thousand are yearly the victims of quackery is, I fear, no exaggerated supposition.
It is a curious fact in the history of metropolitan empiricism, that there is not, so far as I have been able to learn, an instance on record in which a quack who has been in a condition to expend a considerable sum in advertising his nostrums, has not succeeded in getting himself and his trash brought into notice, and reaping an abundant harvest from the adventure. They look on a return of at least fifty per cent. as certain on any amount of capital they may embark in their speculation on public credulity.
In already adverting to the ingenious and high-sounding advertisements which the quack fraternity are in the habit of publishing in the newspapers and periodicals of the day, there was one class of them to which I made no allusion. I refer to those advertisement paragraphs which are ingeniously made to begin as if they really constituted paragraphs containing [-63-] most attractive news; so that those persons who, if they saw that they were puffs of quack medicines, would not take the trouble to read them, are dexterously decoyed into a perusal of them, and do not discover the trick of which they have been made the victims, until after they have got to the end of the paragraph, and the trash of the empiric has been forced on their attention, whether they would or not. Just take two specimens of this ingenious way of puffing quack medicines. The first runs thus: "Terrors of the Guillotine! The system of decapitation is now much less resorted to, as a milder principle of penal law prevails. Perhaps the terror of being guillotined is greatest when the clumsiness of the instrument makes it probable that the sufferer will be mangled, in lieu of at once losing his head. In the former case, however, a person in the present day would have little to fear, after having been given up to his friends, since the use of would speedily bring about adhesion of the wound; for which it is famous, as well as for a complete cure of rheumatism, [-64-] gout, cancer, scrofula, paralysis, burns, wounds of all kinds, &c., &c."
The other instance I shall give is just as ingenious as the above. It is thus worded: Never was there a grander display of the spirit of enterprise than the Carthagenian, General Hannibal displayed in passing over the Alps. In medical science there are innumerable Alpine difficulties to surmount in the complicated disorders of the kidneys, &c., which require a medical Hannibal to overcome. Mr. W has pioneered away every obstacle by the introduction of his celebrated balsamic pills, from which he has judiciously excluded copaiba."
These paragraphs, it will be observed, are, moreover, worded in such a way, as to make them appear as if they were written by the editors of the journals in which they appear; at all events, by any other person than the quacks themselves.
I have in a previous part of this chapter, hazarded a conjecture as to the annual amount of mortality in England, which may fairly be [-65-] ascribed to the agency of medical empiricism. That it must be great, may safely enough be inferred from the fact that Government derive a yearly revenue from the sale of quack medicines, of between £50,000 and £60,000. The sources of this revenue are the stamps, the duty on advertisements, licenses, the patents, and the duty on the paper employed for wrapping up the medicine.
Such a quantity of deleterious medicine cannot be taken without producing disastrous results. Dr. Thornton made a calculation,. that some years ago several thousand children were annually killed by a quack medicine advertised as "Cakes for the Cure of Worms."
It may be asked, do medical empirics or their nostrums ever effect a cure? There can be no question, that cures have occurred when particular parties have been under the hands of quacks, or when taking a course of their medicines. But then, neither the empiric nor the medicine has anything to do with such cures. They are effected by [-66-] nature herself; or it may be, that the imagination of the parties is the principal agent in the matter. The cure, however, is ascribed to the empiric or his medicine; and thus the credulity of one patient paves the way for the credulity of others.
Speaking of the power of the imagination, every one knows what great effects a vigorous imagination is capable of producing. That it can kill, is a fact admitted on all hands. It has been seriously maintained and though, perhaps, not true to the full extent, it is to a very great extent that, were fifteen or twenty persona to enter into a conspiracy together, and to arrange, as if without any previous concert, individually to meet a given man at regular intervals on a particular day, and looking with a grave countenance into his face, to say, that he appeared as ill as if he were just in the act of dying, the result would be, that he would fancy his health was in a most alarming state, and would actually die from the apprehension in a few days. Authen-[-67-]ticated cases of the kind are on record. Still more numerous are the cases of wonderful cures performed by the agency of the imagition. Thousands, in former ages, were cured after the royal touch, though not by the royal touch; the cures were effected through the instrumentality of their strong imaginations. Those acquainted with English history know that the "royal touch" or "gift," as it was generally called, was invented by the monks for the purpose of increasing the reverence for kings, in the time of Edward the Confessor; and that it was continued by every successive sovereign for the long period of six centuries and a half. It was computed that Charles the Second, during the twenty-six years he practised the royal gift, touched nearly a hundred thousand persons, many of whom, by the power of their imaginations, are said to have been healed. To prove beyond all controversy what may in some cases be accomplished by the aid of imagination alone, it may be right to mention this curious fact, that the Prince of [-68-] Orange, when the garrison, during the seige of Breda, were suffering extreme distress from the ravages of scurvy, sent in by a confidential messenger a preparation which was called an infallible specific for the disease, with instructions to take it in a large quantity of water. The medicine was taken with avidity, and with a full conviction of its adequacy to cure the epidemic. It had the desired effect; the soldiers were all restored to health. It was afterwards confessed by the prince, that the substance in question consisted of nothing else than a little colouring matter. Everybody knows, too, how many wonderful cures were performed, ten or twenty years ago, by the celebrated Prince Hohenloe, even when he was several hundred miles distant from his patients, if so they ought to be called. And just at this moment, marvellous cures are being performed in the case of the poor Irish, by the force of imagination; they going to Father Matthew, the apostle of temperance, in the full persuasion that he possesses the gift of [-69-] curing the sick, though he himself utterly disclaims all pretensions to the possession of any such gift.
This sufficiently explains how cures are occasionally performed on patients at the time they are under the care of empirics; and when any such cures do occur, the empiric gets the entire credit of them, which, of course, materially assists in paving the way for the success of his farther experiments on public credulity.
Reference has already been made to the fact of so many of our English aristocracy being numbered among the patients, or rather gulls, of medical empirics. This is surprising enough, but it is not so surprising as the fact, that some of the greatest and most learned men the world has ever produced, were equally credulous in such matters. Cicero and Aurelius were the victims of medical superstition; and Boyle and Lord Bacon were just as credulous on the subject, as the poor ignorant creatures who at this moment potently believe in the healing power of Father Matthew.
[-70-] It has often struck me as surprising that medical empirics, in the plenitude of their ingenuity in devising schemes to gull the public, should never have started with some pretended preventive against diseases of any and every kind. Hitherto, they have modestly limited their medical skill to the capability of curing those maladies by which the human frame is liable to be attacked. Why does not some of their number boldly and unblushingly affirm, that he has discovered a. medicine which shall infallibly act as a panoply against the invasions of disease of any and every description; a medicine which shall insuret he party patronising it an entire immunity from the maladies to which humanity is subject? Any thing which should thus hold out the promise of perpetual exemption. from disease, would be sure to take by the credulous thousands who crowd the metropolis. The medicine would be bought up with avidity; the house of the empiric, if he professed to practise, would be thronged with patients, eager to swallow his [-71-] nostrums, in the full persuasion that they possessed all the virtue which the rogue ascribed to them.
The only individual who seems, in any degree, to have anticipated this project, was, a recent German empirical optician. He however, accomplished his object by persuading persons, whose eyes were perfectly good, that they either were very bad or were in danger of immediately becoming, so. The author of a little pamphlet, called "Spectacle Secrets," relates the following anecdote of this ingenious German quack :
"A lady," says he, was "startled one morning by a big, blustering, showily-dressed man, who, after knocking at the street-door, pushed past the servant, and rapping loudly at the parlour-door, opened it without waiting for any reply, ' Goot morning, matam, I am the optition to the Royal Family; your friend, Lady , terives so much goot from my pellucit lenses, she pegged me to call and suit you."
[-72-] Before all this had been uttered he had taken a package from a confederate, dressed as a livery-servant who accompanied him, and .covered the table with his stock .
'Your eyes are in a most alarming state, matam this pair of cold spectacles will suit you.'
'Really!' said the lady, how came Lady W, to suppose I wanted spectacles? I have never worn any at any time in my life.'
'No, that's the vary reason your sight is leaving you- your eyes are vary pad.'
'What is the price of this pair?' inquired the lady.
'Three guineas,' was the answer. The price was paid; and after punishing her eyes for a few days, the lady met with a scientific friend, who convinced her they were totally unfit and improper for her, her eyes being in excellent order, and not requiring spectacles at all."
Reference has already been made to the low origin and their utter ignorance of litera[-73-]ture, medicine, and every thing else, of the quack fraternity. A recent number of the "Medical Gazette" states that two persons, who have lately set up in opposition to the prince of quacks, the great pill manufacturer, were formerly in his employ; the one as footman, and the other as a carpenter who was occasionally employed on the premises. They are now in partnership, and are running their former employer very hard, by offering to dose the public with pills more thoroughly Morisonian than those manufactured by the illustrious Hygeist himself.
Another empiric who was recently in town, had been originally an hostler; but finding that either the horses did not come in fast enough, or that the riders or drivers were not sufficiently liberal to enable him to obtain a living, he betook himself to doctoring the lieges, and speedily acquired a handsome fortune.
But, perhaps, the most successful of recent empirics, always excepting the prince of quacks himself, is a person who was originally a [-74-] barber and continued for many years in the practice of his humble calling, "shaving for a penny" as many of the chins of his fellow-subjects as came in his way. At last it struck him, that though he might earn a livelihood by the trade of chin-scraping, there was little or no probability of his ever making a fortune by it. He, therefore, determined on turning doctor at once. The result soon justified the wisdom of the expedient; he acquired a large and lucrative practice. In a few years he was worth several thousand pounds.
I shall only mention one instance more. It is given in a recent work, entitled "Sketches of Imposture." The empiric in question was a bankrupt German shopkeeper, .and chiefly confined himself to the cure of the gout. The nobility and gentry flocked to his house, and, with the .aid of vigorous imaginations several of them got cured. The result was, that he amassed a splendid fortune, with which he returned to his native country; where, living in all the luxury of a prince, he drank daily as [-75-] his first, and certainly most appropriate, toast, "To the credulous and stupid nobility, gentry, and opulent merchants of Great Britain."
It is discreditable to the government and legislature that quackery should have been suffered to be carried on so long, and to so frightful an extent, in this country. Some idea of the extent to which it is carried on, may not only be inferred from the facts which have already been stated in this chapter, but from this one astounding fact, that one-tenth part of all the advertisements which appear in the London weekly and provincial journals, consist of advertisements of quack medicines. The medical profession itself ought to take decided steps with the view of putting down the intolerable nuisance; if fairly brought before. parliament, there cannot be a doubt that some decisive measures would at once be had recourse to, for the purpose of strangling the many-headed monster of medical empiricism.