Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, taken from original sources, Volume II

Ashton, John








PEOPLE got ill then as now, and, judging by the following list, there were just about as many diseases, only scientific names had not taken the place of the old homely nomenclature. This is taken from a list of deaths from all causes: 'Age. Ague and Fever, Appoplex and Suddenly, Bleach, Blasted, Bloody Flux, Scouring and Flux. Burns and Scalds. Bleeding, Calenture, Cancer, Gangrene and Fistula, Wolf, Canker, Soremouth and Thrush, Colick and Wind, Cough and Cold, Consumption and Cough, Convulsion, Cramp, Dropsie and Tympany, Excessive drinking, Falling Sickness, Flox and Small Pox, French pox, Gout, Grief, Head Ach, Jaundice, Jaw-faln, Impostume, Itch, King's Evil, Lethargy, Leprosie, Liver-grown, Spleen and Rickets, Lunatick, Meagrom, Measles, Mother, Palsie, Plague, Plague in the Guts, Pleurisie, Purples and Spotted Fever, Quinsie and Sore Throat, Rising of the Lights, Rupture, Scal'd head, Scurvy, Sores and Ulcers, Spleen, Shingles, Stitch, Stone and Strangury, Sciatica, Stopping of the Stomach, Surfet. Swine Pox. Teeth and Worms, Tissick, Vomiting, Wen.'

Of these, the most deaths resulted from consumption and cough, next ague and fever, then flox and smallpox. The infant mortality was terrible-the great cause of death


being put down as teeth and worms. Consumption even now baffles the skill of our physicians. Quinine was then used for ague and fever, not as the crystal alkaloid, but in the rough bark, which was sold as 'Jesuits Bark,' at prices ranging from 4s. to 10s. per lb. Smallpox, inoculation or vaccination being unknown, was a fearful scourge, and spared no one-helped, as it was, by the all but utter ignorance of sanitary science, to the value of which we, in this generation, are only awaking.

Quackery was rampant, probably because people did not have much belief in the healing powers of the regular practitioners. Herbs and simples were much in use; and not only were there fearful remedies concocted by fair hands in the still-room, but naturally every old woman had faith in the traditional medicaments handed down to her by her forefathers. Also the empiricism of the alchemists still lingered -see the following advertisement: 'Whereas the Viper hath been a Medicine approv'd by the Physicians of all Nations; there is now prepar'd the Volatile Spirit compound of it, a Preparation altogether new, not only exceeding all Volatiles and Cordials whatsoever, but all the Preparations of the Viper itself, being the Receipt of a late Eminent Physician, and prepar'd only by a Relation. It is the most Sovereign Remedy against all Faintings, Sweatings, Lowness of Spirits, Vapours &c.-As also in all Habits of Body or Disorders proceeding from Intemperance, eating of Fruit, drinking of bad Wine, or any other poysonous or crude Liquors, and is good to take off the ill Effects or Remains of the Bark or Jesuits Powder.'

Bleeding and purging-these were the main remedies relied on in those old days; something to make the patient remember his illness by, as he did his doctor's bill, by the quantity of medicine he had swallowed. Brown, satirist as he was, was truthful, even to coarseness, and neither he nor Ward told lies in order to round a sentence, or point an epigram. This is how Brown [1] makes a fashionable physician describe his practice: 'He pays well, and takes Physick freely: besides I particularly know his Constitution; after


Bleeding, he must take a Purge or two, then some Cordial Powders, Dulcifiers of the Blood, and two or three odd things more. ... I tell you 'tis an easie thing for a Man of Parts to be a Surgeon; do but buy a Lancet, Forceps, Saw; talk a little of Contusions, Fractures, Compress and Bandage; you'll presently by most People, be thought an excellent Surgeon. . . I myself have turn'd out several Doctors out of Families because they would not prescribe Physick plentifully, and in large Quantities. I have perswaded my Patients, that they did not well understand their Distemper; so have brought in another who has swingingly dos'd 'um. I could tell you of a Sir Harry that paid an £ 100 for Physick in six Weeks, and I accepted it, being a Friend, without requiring one Penny for my own Fees.'

The profession then, as now, was divided among Physicians, Surgeons, and Apothecaries; and the relative position of two of them is mentioned by Addison1[2] : 'An Operator of this Nature might act under me with the same regard as a Surgeon to a Physician; the one might be employ'd in healing those Blotches and Tumours which break out in the Body, while the other is sweetning the Blood and rectifying the Constitution.' The Apothecaries, of course, kept shops for the supply of drugs.

In the great fire of the College of Physicians, which was at Amen Corner, was burnt down, and a new one built, which was used till , in Warwick Lane:-

Not far from that most celebrated Place,

Where angry Justice shews her awful Face;

Where little Villains must submit to Fate,

That great ones may enjoy the World in State;

There stands a Dome, majestick to the sight,

And sumptuous Arches bear its oval height;

A golden Globe plac'd high with artful skill,

Seems, to the distant sight, a gilded Pill.

-The Dispensary, by Dr. Garth, Canto 1, ed. 1699.

This was the building that the profession thought was mainly built by the munificence of Sir John Cutler; but after his


death his executors demanded 7,000£. for money lent, and were eventually repaid 2,000£. Pope wrote of Cutler :-

His Grace's fate sage Cutler could foresee

And well (he thought,) advis'd him, ' Live like Me.'

As well his Grace replied, ' Like you Sir John ?

That I can do, when all I have is gone.'

Ward [3]  sums up the physician's privileges: 'What Priviledges, said I, extraordinary are Granted to them in their Charter, above what are held by other Physicians who are not of their Society? Many, replied my friend, and these in particular, viz. No Person, tho' a Graduate in Physick of Oxford or Cambridge, and a Man of more Learning, Judgment and Experience than one half of their Members, shall have the Liberty of practising in, or within Seven Miles of London, without License under the Colledge Seal; Or in any other part of England, if they have not taken some Degree at one of the Universities; They have also power to administer an Oath, which they know by Experience is as practicable to be broke the next Day, as 'tis to be taken; They can likewise Fine and Imprison Offenders, in the Science of Physick, and all such who presume to Cure a Patient, when they have given 'em over, by more excellent Measures than ever were known by their Ignorance; They have also the Priviledge of making By Laws, for the Interest of themselves, and Injury of the Publick, and can purchase Lands in Right of the Corporation, if they could but find Money to pay for 'em; they have authority to examine the Medicines in all Apothecaries Shops, to Judge of the wholesomeness and Goodness of many Drugs and Compositions they never yet understood; They are likewise exempt from troublesome Offices, as Jury men, Constables, &c.'

A visiting physician's fee was a guinea, but a consulting one's less. ' The Worshipful Graduate in the noble Art of Man slaughter, receiv'd us with a Civility that was peculiar to him at the sight of four Half Crowns.' A suit of black (velvet if possible), a full-bottomed wig, a muff, and a goldor silver-headed cane formed the outward adornment of the physician.



The surgeons, not being incorporated till , had no special meeting-place; but the apothecaries had their Hall in Water Lane, Blackfriars, which had been built in , and is thus described by Garth:-

Nigh where Fleet Ditch descends in sable Streams,

To wash his sooty Naiads in the Thames;

There stands a Structure on a Rising Hill,

Where Tyro's take their Freedom out to kill.

-The Dispensary, Canto 3, ed. 1699.

Professional etiquette was, as a rule, strictly adhered to, and these divisions did not interfere with each other, although Brown [4]  intimates that it was done occasionally: ' Gallypot.... " For tho' I am an Old Apothecary, I am but a Young Doctor. For I visit in either Capacity, either as an Old Apothecary, which is as good as a Young Doctor, or as a Young Doctor, and that's as good as t'other again." Trueman. "But I thought you had left off Shop, and stuck only to your Doctorship ?" Gallypot. " So I do openly, but privately I keep a Shop, and side in all things with the Apothecaries against the Doctors."'

This allusion refers to a curious dissension which had arisen in the profession. The physicians at the latter end of the seventeenth century were undoubtedly an ignorant and unscientific race; and the apothecaries, finding that if they did not know as much, they could soon do so, began to prescribe on their own responsibility, as Pope [5]  says:-

So modern 'pothecaries taught the art

By Doctor's bills, to play the Doctor's part;

Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,

Prescribe, apply, and call their Masters fools.

The physicians naturally resented this, and, making a pretext that the apothecary's charges were so enormous as to render their prescriptions useless to the poor, they eventually set up a Dispensary of their own at the College, where they sold medicines to the poor at cost price. And this accusation was warranted, if we can believe Brown. 'Pray how do ye at your end of the Town prize a Dose of common Purging


Pills?' 'Why, Brother, about Eighteenpence, sometimes Two Shillings, with an Haustus after them of Three and Sixpence.' 'And can you live so ? I believe all the things cost you at least a Shilling out of Pocket.' 'No, God forbid! How could I live then? Indeed they cost, me about Sixpence, and I take but Five Shillings and Sixpence, sometimes less, and I think that's honest Gains.'

This Dispensary was the cause of great disturbance, and split the profession into Dispensarians and anti-Dispensarians, and a naturally acrimonious feeling sprang up, which was only allayed by the obnoxious Dispensary being given up, when things fell back into their old groove.

The Pharmacopoeias then in use were 'Lasher's,' Bate's Dispensary,' 'Hartman's Family Physitian,' and ' Salmon's Collectanea Medica' 1; and very curious indeed were some of the medicines prescribed, as ' Live Hog Lice,' 'Burnt Cork quenched in Aqua Vitae,' 'Red Coral,' New Gathered Earth Worms,' 'Live Toads,'' Black tips of Crabs Claws,' ' Man's Skull,' 'Elk's hoofs,' Leaves of Gold,' 'Man's bones calcined,' 'Inward skin of a Capon's Gizzard,' 'Goose dung, gather'd in the Spring time, dry'd in the Sun,' 'Stone of a Carp's head,' 'Unicorn's horn,' Boar's tooth,' 'Jaw of a Pike,' 'Wind pipes of Sheep cleansed and dryed in an Oven, Wind pipes of Capons in like manner prepared,' 'Sea Horse tooth rasped,' 'Frog's livers,' 'White dung of a Peacock dryed,'' Toads and Vipers flesh,' Cuttle fish bone,' and many others even more repulsive than these.

How would one like to take this medicine for smallpox? 'Pulvis AEthiopicus, the Black powder. R. Live Toads, No. 30 or 40, burn them in a new Pot, to black Cinders or Ashes, and make a fine pouder. Dose 3ss. or more in the Small Pox &c. and is a certain help for such as are ready to die: some also commend it as a wonderful thing for the cure of the Dropsie.'

' Pulvis Ictericus, A Pouder against the Yellow Jaundice. R. Goose dung gather'd in the Spring time, dry'd in the Sun,

A very long list of medical works of the time can be seen at the end of Dr. Garth's poem of The Dispensary, ed. , B. M. 840h.6/2. MEDICAL.


and finely pouder'd 3ij., the best Saffron 3i., white Sugar candy 3ij., mix and make a pouder. Dose 3ij. twice a day in Rhenish wine, for six days together. Or thus-R. Roots of Turmerick, white Tartar, Mars prepared. A 3ss. Earthworms, Choice Rhubarb 3ij., mix and make a powder. Dose 3j. in a little Glass of White Wine. An Acquaintance of mine, a Learned Physician, usually makes both the Compositions into One, and assures me that he never found it once to fail.'

' Ranarum Hepata, Livers of Frogs. R. They are prepared by drying them upon Colewort Leaves in a Closed Vessel, and then poudring them. S.A. Dose 3ss. against the Epilepsie, Quartan Ague &c. If they be dryed and preserved with the galls adjoyning, the medicine will be stronger and better; and may then be given Morning and Evening a 9j. ad 9 ij. in any fit Vehicle.'

'Corrus Epilepticus. The Antepileptick Crow or Raven. R,. The greater Crow, deplumate, and eviscerate it, casting away its Feet and Bill; put into its Belly the Heart, Liver, Lungs, Bladder of the Gall, with Galangal and Aniseeds, A 3iv. bake it in a new Earthen Vessel well shut or closed in an Oven with Household Bread; after it is cooled, separate the Flesh from the Sides or Bones, and repeat this Operation of baking the second or third time, but taking great care that it may not be burnt, then reduce it into a fine pouder. S.A. Dose 3j. every day, to such as are afflicted with the Falling Sickness; it is a famous remedy. That there may be a more excellent Composition than this, we doubt not, and are confident it may be improv'd to a greater advantage; the Composition in our Seplasium. lib. 6. cap. 21. sect. 11. seems to excel it, which is this. R. Of Ravens Flesh in pouder (as the former Prescript advises) 3iij. Viper pouder, 3j native Cinnamon 3j (ad 3 ss.) mix and make a subtile Pouder for two Doses, to be given at Night going to Bed.'

The above are all from one book, published , and could be multiplied to almost any extent, from this and the other Pharmacopceias, were it necessary; but enough has been quoted to show the ignorance and empiricism of the medical practitioners of that day.

All remedies, however, were not of the foregoing descrip-


tion, and many receipts seem admirably fitted to effect their desired purpose, the great fault with them being that they were overloaded with extraneous compounds, which could not possibly do the patient any good, and must necessarily add greatly to the cost, if only the extra time taken in their preparation be counted. Bleeding and purging, as before said, were the remedies really relied on, and bleeding took place on the slightest occasion. Not only the lancet, but cupping, was employed; indeed, cuppers attended nearly every Bagnio or bath, as Ward says: 'I'll carry you to see the Hummuns, where I have an honest old Acquaintance that is a Cupper.' He describes the operation thus: 'By the Perswasions of my Friend, and my Friend's Friend, I at last consented; upon which the Operator fetch'd in his Instruments, and fixes three Glasses at my Back, which by drawing out the Air, stuck to me as close as a Cantharides Plaister to the Head of a Lunatick, and Sucked as hard as so many Leeches, till I thought they would have crept into me, and have come out on t'other side. When by Virtue of this Hocus Pocus Stratagem, he had conjur'd all the ill blood out of my Body, under his glass Juggling Cups, he plucks out an ill favour'd Instrument, at which I was as much frighted, as an absconding Debtor is at the sight of a Bill of Middlesex, takes off his Glasses, which had made my Shoulders as weary as a Porter's Back under a heavy Burthen, and begins to Scarifie my Skin, as a Cook does a Loin of Pork to be Roasted; but with such Ease and Dexterity, that I could have suffer'd him to have Pink'd me all over as full of Eyelet holes, as the Taylor did the Shoemakers Cloak, had any Malady requir'd it, without Flinching; when he had drawn away as much Blood as he thought Necessary, for the removal of my pain, he cover'd the Places he had Carbonaded, with a new Skin, provided for that purpose, and heal'd the Scarifications he had made, in an Instant.'

'A Cantharides Plaister to the Head of a Lunatick' shows us somewhat how those poor unfortunates who were bereft of their senses were treated. Of Bethlehem Hospital I will speak in another place, regarding it more as a prison for the safe keeping of mad people than as an hospital,where, by any


means, those cloudy intellects could be brightened up and cleared.

If the relatives or friends could afford it, they were put under the charge of some one, as now, who would pretend to try and cure them; but then, unlike the present time, there was not even the form of a visitation to hear complaints, or to report on ill-treatment. 'At the Pestle and Mortar on Snow Hill, is a Person who has had great Experience and success in curing Lunaticks, he has also conveniences for Persons of both Sexes, good and diligent Attendance for the best ranks of People, and having for several years past,perform'd it to the satisfaction of many Families: He therefore makes this Publick, to inform, where on very reasonable rates the same Cure shall be industriously endeavour'd, and (with God's Blessing) effected.' Does it not look like a model for a modern advertisement ? How Dr. So and So, assisted by a large staff of well-trained domestics, etc.

Here is an advertisement of a private Mad House. It being industriously given out by some malicious Persons, That the House of the Late Claudius Gillat at Hoxton, for the Accommodation of 'Lunaticks, is shut up; These are to Certify, that the said House is still kept by William Prowting, Apothecary, who has all Conveniences fitting for such persons; as a large House, pleasant Gardens, &c., and gives Liberty to any Physician, Surgeon or Apothecary, of administering Physick to those that are recommended by them.'

Another Advertisement, however, lets a little light into the treatment of the mentally afflicted: 'A Dumb young Man broke his Chain last Wednesday Night, and left his Friends from their House in Compton Street, next door to the Golden Ball Alehouse, Soho, and those that will take Care to bring him Home, shall be Rewarded. He has been Mad these 23 Years.'

Garth thus describes a prosperous physician:-

Triumphant Plenty, with a chearful grace

Basks in their Eyes, and sparkles in their Face.

How sleik their looks, how goodly is their Mien,

When big they strut behind a double Chin.

Each Faculty in blandishments they lull,

Aspiring to be venerably dull.



Like his descendant of modern times, who cannot possibly be clever in his profession unless he drives two horses to his brougham, the physician of Queen Anne's reign had to have his coach; but then it must have at least four horses-of course he must be vastly cleverer if he could drive six-but still, his equipage must be well appointed, and in the fashion. Of course he need not go to the extent Radcliffe did; but Radcliffe made himself the laughing-stock of the town, both by the gaiety of his turn-out and by a rumour getting abroad that he had started it with the idea of favourably impressing a young and wealthy lady, to whom this old Adonis of sixty would needs pay his addresses-in which scheme, alas for the doctor! he was not successful. Steele could not resist having a bit of fun over it. ' This day, passing through Covent garden, I was stopped in the piazza by PACOLET, to observe what he called the Triumph of LOVE and YOUTH. I turned to the object he pointed at, and there I saw a gay gilt Chariot, drawn by fresh prancing horses; the Coachman with a new Cockade, and the lacqueys with insolence and plenty in their countenances. I asked immediately, "What young heir or lover owned that glittering equipage ?" But my companion interrupted: "Do you not see there the mourning AEsculapius ?" " The mourning ?" said I. "Yes Isaac," said Pacolet, "he's in deep mourning, and is the languishing, hopeless lover of the divine HEBE, [6]  the emblem of youth and beauty.' [7] 

His rival Hannes set up a beautiful carriage, etc., and it excited universal attention. Some friend told him that Hannes' horses were the finest he had seen. 'Ah,' snarled old Radcliffe, 'then he'll be able to sell 'em for all the more.'

The principal physicians of Anne's reign were Dr. Radcliffe, Sir Samuel Garth, Sir Hans Sloane, and Dr. Mead.

The first was born in , took his M.D. degree in , came to London in , and, somehow, at once got into good practice. He was called in to the poor little Duke of Gloucester, when too late to be of any service, and consoled


himself by soundly rating the two physicians, Sir E. Hannes and Sir Rd. Blackmore, for their previous conduct of the case. But he was not the court physician, for which he had himself to thank. The Queen, when the Princess Anne, got somewhat hypochondriac, after the death of her sister Queen Mary, and sent for Radcliffe to come at once to see her. He was at a tavern in St. James's, enjoying his bottle. He knew there was nothing the matter, and physicians were not so smoothtongued as they are now; so he very rudely refused to go, and sent back a message that it was all fancy, and that her Royal Highness was as well as anyone else. Next morning he presented himself at the palace, only to be informed that he had been dismissed, and that Dr. Gibbons had already received his appointment. The Queen would never forgive him; but, on her death-bed, he was sent for to attend her, when he returned as answer that 'he had taken physic and could not come.' The Queen died, and great was the popular wrath against the doctor for his refusal. He might have saved her life, said the people; and after the manner of their kind, they sent him threatening letters; nay, a friend of his moved that he might be summoned to attend in his place in Parliament (he was member for the town of Buckingham) in order to be censured for not attending her Majesty. He did not long survive her, dying on Nov. I, .

One anecdote told of him is too good not to be repeated. He would never even pay a tradesman without squabbling over the account. A paviour had been repairing the pavement in front of his house, and when he applied for his money was told he had spoiled it, and then covered it with earth to hide his bad work. 'Doctor,' replied the man, 'mine is not the only bad work the earth hides.'

Sir Samuel Garth took his degree of M.D. in , was elected a Fellow of the College in , and took a prominent part in the famous dispute as to the Dispensarywriting in his poem of that name, which had at once a large sale. Garth wrote many poems, translated Ovid, and it was to him that Dryden owed his public funeral, for, as Ward says, 'they had like to let him pass in private to


his Grave, without those Funeral Obsequies suitable to his Greatness, had it not been for that true British Worthy, who, Meeting with the Venerable Remains of the neglected Bard passing silently in a Coach, unregarded to his last Home, ordered the Corps, by the consent of his few Friends that Attended him, to be Respited from so obscure an Interment; and most Generously undertook at his own Expence, to revive his Worth in the Minds of a forgetful People, by bestowing on his peaceful Dust a Solemn Funeral Answerable to his Merit.' He had the body removed to the College of Physicians, where it lay in state previous to its removal, with great pomp, to Westminster Abbey.

He was a member of the Kit Cat Club, and the story is told of him that one day at a meeting of that club he sat so long over his wine that Steele reminded him of his duty to his patients. Garth replied that 'it was no matter whether he saw them that night or next morning, for nine had such bad constitutions that no physician could save them, and the other six had such good ones that all the physicians in the world could not kill them.' He died Jan. 8, .

The name of Sir Hans Sloane is undoubtedly the most familiar to the ears of this generation of all the doctors of that time; especially to Londoners, Sloane Street and Square, and Hans Place, being all reminiscences of him, through the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth with the second Baron Cadogan.

He was of Scotch extraction, but born in Ireland, in . Already a Fellow of the College of Physicians and Royal Society, he accompanied as physician the Duke of Albemarle (who had been appointed Governor of the West Indies) to Jamaica. The Duke soon died out there, and Sloane returned to England with a large collection of the flora and fauna of the countries he had visited. To this voyage may be attributed the foundation of the British Museum, for it gave him the taste for collecting rarities of every description, and, to prevent his museum from being dispersed after his death, he bequeathed it to the nation, on condition of the payment of 20,000£. to his family. Montague House was purchased to contain the curiosities; and from this small beginning has


arisen that marvellous national collection, the finest in the world. Honours flowed in upon him, and, after a very busy life, he died at a good old age in .

Dr. Rd. Mead was born in . Clever in his profession, and the author of many medical treatises, undoubtedly he owed much of his position to Radcliffe, whose patronage he secured by the most unblushing adulation. He took advantage of every opportunity, such as moving into the larger house of a physician recently dead; and should have amassed a large fortune, as for many years he was earning between 5,000£. and 6,000£. per annum. Although his consulting fee was one guinea and his visiting fee two, he would attend either Batson's, or Tom's, Coffee Houses (the former being a noted place of resort for medical men), and thither would come the apothecaries, for whom he would write prescriptions, without seeing the patient, at half a guinea each. He is remarkable as the doctor who fought a duel. It was with Woodward, who had not only attacked him in his 'State of Physick and Diseases,' but insulted him in public. Matters came to a climax one day when they were leaving Gresham College, and, under the arch leading from the outer to the Green court, Mead's patience gave way. He drew, and called upon Woodward to defend himself or beg his pardon. Whether they ever actually fought or not is not known, although there is a bon-mot about Mead disarming Woodward and telling him to beg for his life. ' Never till I am your patient,' was his reply. Certain it is that Woodward gave in, and Mead lived in peace.

Mead was called in consultation when the Queen was in her last illness, and he plainly gave his opinion that she would not survive, but he did not attend her. He died Feb. 16, , and was buried in the Temple Church.

There must have been some hot blood in the profession in those days, for Luttrell says: '6 July, . Mr. Coatsworth, an apothecary in St. Martin's Lane, convicted in Easter term, upon an information in the Queen's bench, for assaulting Dr. Ratcliffe, at Tom's Coffee House, by spitting in his face, upon some words that arose betwen them, was upon Monday fined 100 marks, which he paid into Court.'



The practice of surgery was attended with some difficulties, for there were no public schools of anatomy as now: nay, it was as late as that Evelyn presented to the Royal Society, as a wonderful curiosity, the Table of Veins, Arteries, and Nerves which he had caused to be made in Italy.

We see that anatomy had to be taught privately, but still that there were professors who were capable of teaching. ' On Monday the 13th Instant, Mr. Rolfe Surgeon in Chancery Lane intends to begin at his House a compleat Course of Anatomy on Human Bodies, viz. Osteology, Myology, and Enterology, to be continued every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.' The knife was freely used, and the instruments were far from clumsy; but conservative surgery was also practised, and many orthopaedic mechanical appliances were in use. 'Charles Roberts, who makes Steel Stays, Strait Stockings, Steel Boots, Collars, Cheiques and Swings, and by many years practice, having brought the same to great perfection, is perswaded to give this publick notice for the benefit of such who suffer by Deformity.'

The barbers also bled and drew teeth, as many now do.

The oculists of that day were particularly pushing, and puffed and lied themselves into notoriety with vigour. Chief of them was Sir William Read, oculist to her most gracious majesty; and if anybody wishes to see how much that tender organ the eye can be abused by an oculist, let him read his ' Short but Exact Account of all the Diseases Incident to the Eyes.' Originally a tailor in a small way of business, he managed, somehow, to rise so as to become the Queen's sworn oculist, and to be knighted; nor only so, but was able to keep up a good establishment and a magnificent equipage. One thing is certain-he thoroughly knew the value of advertising; and the accompanying illustration is taken from one of his handbills, probably about . In it he gives a list of wonderful cures he has wrought, how he has cured wry necks, harelips, cut out cancers, trepanned skulls, operated on wens and polypuses, cured dropsy, cut off a man's leg, and given sight to numerous people who were born blind.

His knighthood is thus recorded in the Gazette of July 30/Aug. 1, : 'Windsor 27 July. Her Majesty was


this day Graciously pleased to confer the Honour of Knighthood upon William Read Esq. Her Majesty's Oculist in Ordinary, as a Mark of her Royal Favour for his great Services done in Curing great Numbers of Seamen and Soldiers of Blindness gratis.' This he advertised to do all
through the war; and when the Palatines came over here he publicly offered to attend any of them for diseases of the eye gratis. And now, forsooth, he advertised that 'Lady Read' would attend to patients as well; and some Grub Street poet wrote a poem, called 'The Oculist,' 'Address'd to Sir William


Read, Knt.,' with a long and fulsome dedication. One part of the poem runs:-

Whilst Britain's Sovereign Scales such WORTH has weig'd,

And ANNE her self her smiling Favours paid:

That Sacred Hand does Your fair Chaplet twist,

Great READ her own Entitled OCULIST.

When the Great ANNE'S warm Smiles this Favourite raise,

'Tis not a Royal Grace she gives, but pays.

Swift [8]  writes to Stella of Read's sumptuous way of living: 'Henley would fain engage me to go with Steele and Rowe &c. to an invitation at Sir William Read's. Surely you have heard of him. He has been a Mountebank, and is the Queen's Oculist; he makes admirable punch, and treats you in gold vessels. But I am engaged, and won't go.'

His rival, who was also the Queen's sworn oculist, was Roger Grant, who, report said, was originally a tinker, and afterwards an anabaptist preacher in Southwark.

Her Majesty sure was in a Surprise,

Or else was very short sighted;

When a Tinker was sworn to look after her Eyes,

And the Mountebank Read was Knighted.

He also advertised largely, and published lists of his cures, with certificates from the mayor and aldermen of Durham, Northampton, Coventry, Hull, etc., touching the authenticity of his cures. How these were procured is fully explained in a little tract called 'A Full and True ACCOUNT of a Miraculous CURE of a Young MAN in Newington, That was Born BLIND, and was in Five Minutes brought to Perfect Sight, by Mr. ROGER GRANT, Oculist,' . The case in question was advertised by Grant in the Daily Courant of July 30, , and the little book ruthlessly exposes the fraudulent manner in which the certificate was obtained.

As has been said before, quackery was universal; nay, it had the sanction of being practised by royalty, for was not the Queen an arch quack when she touched for the evil'? She was the last of a long line of sovereigns, from Edward


the Confessor, who exercised the supposed royal gift of healing; but this salutary efficacy was not confined to the royal touch alone, if we can believe a little story of Thoresby's 1[9] : ' Her Mother Mary Bailey of Deptford, after she had been twelve years blind by the Kings evil was miraculously cured by a handkerchief dipped in the blood of King Charles the First.'

Misson was present the last time James the Second touched, and has left us a graphic account of the ceremony: ' The King was seated in a Chair of State,[10]  rais'd two or three Steps. The Reverend Father Peter, with his little Band and his sweeping Cloak was standing at the King's Right Hand. After some Prayers, the diseased Person, or those that pretended to be so,[11]  were made to pass between a narrow double Rail, which fac'd the King. Each Patient, Rich and Poor, Male and Female, fell upon their knees, one after another, at the King's Feet. The King putting forth his two Hands, touch'd their two Cheeks; the Jesuit, who held a Number of Gold Medals, each fasten'd to a narrow white Ribband, put the Ribband round the Patient's Neck at the same Time that the King touch'd him, and said something tantamount to what they say in France, The King touches thee; God cure thee. This was done in a Trice; and for fear the same Patient should crowd into the File again, to get another Medal,[12]  he was taken by the Arm, and carry'd into a safe place. When the King was weary of repeating the same action, and touching the Cheek or Chin, Father Peter the Almoner, presented him with the End of the String which was round the Patient's Neck. The Virtue pass'd from the Hand to the String, from the String to the Cloaths, from the Cloaths to the Skin, and from the Skin to the Root of the Evil: After this Royal Touch, those that were really ill were put into the Hands of Physicians; and those that came only for the Medal, had no need of other Remedies.' This last sentence explains a great deal.

William III. did not touch, but gave away the money hitherto spent on the touch pieces, etc., in charity. But Anne, as a thoroughly legitimate English monarch, and a


Stuart to boot, kept up the fiction of her curative powers. She tried it on Dr. Johnson, but it had no effect; and his recollections of the ceremony were very vague. ' He had,' he said, 'a confused but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds, and a long black hood.' But then the staunch old Jacobite used to declare that 'his mother had not carried him far enough; she should have taken him to ROME' (to the Pretender).

Anne touched the very first year of her reign, for Luttrell says, 'The Service and Attendance belonging to the Ceremony of touching for the King's Evil went for Bath last Week, her Majesty desiring to touch there.' Illness sometimes prevented her: ' Her Majesty did not touch yesterday for the evil as design'd, having the gout in her hands.' [13] 

It evidently required some little interest to get touched, for Swift writes[14]  to Stella: ' I visited the Duchess of Ormond this morning . . . I spoke to her to get a lad touched for the Evil. . . . But the Queen has not been able to touch, and it now grows so warm, I fear she will not at all.'

Notices were duly posted in the Gazette as to when she touched or not, and in that of May 24/28, , we find one which would lead us to imagine that some unfair practice had arisen: 'It is also Her Majesty's Command, That all Persons who shall then apply to be touched, shall bring a Certificate to Her Majesty's Serjeant Surgeon, signed by the Minister and Churchwardens of the Parish where such Person shall then reside, that they never had before received the Royal Touch, as been heretofore accustomed.'

It is impossible to take up a newspaper of that time without encountering some quack advertisements, and the quantity of handbills [15]  still preserved, show how they must have flooded the place. There was the 'Volatile Spirit of BOHEA TEA,' 'Pilula Salutiferens,' 'Spirit of Scurvy Grass,' 'Balsamick Pills,' 'Elixir Minerale,' 'Green Cathartick Elixir,' [16] 


The Hysterick Tincture,' 'The White Cardialgic Powder,' 'The Volatile Cordial Pill,' 'Tinctura Benedicta,' ' Electuarium Mirabile,' 'Electuary of the Balm of Gilead.' What a list might be made of them! See what Addison says of them in the Tatler (224). The heading to one is given as a sample of the style of art in the handbill.

This ' Paris Pill and Electuary' is described as follows: 'The Price of a Box of the Pills is 2s. 6d. and a Pot of the Electuary 1s. 6d. of which Pills and Electuary two Boxes & one Pot will be sufficient for any one not very far gone in the Distemper, and Double the Number will heal the Patient if in great Extremity. Sold by J. Sherwood Book Seller at Popings aley Gate fleet street, With a paper of Directions.'


In another advertisement of 'Dr. Anderson's, or the Famous Scots Pills,' you are requested to 'Beware of Counterfeits, especially an Ignorant pretender, one Muffen, who keeps a China Shop, and is so unneighbourly as to pretend to sell the same Pills within 3 Doors of me.'

But the quacks were not all stationary; as at present, some were peripatetic, who, after the fashion of these wanderers, had an eloquence of their own, which only Ward can do justice to. Here is a short extract[17]  of the ' patter ' of those days. 'Gentlemen, you that have a Mind to be Mindful of preserving a Sound Mind in a Sound Body, that is, as the Learned Physician Doctor Honorificicabilitudinitatibusque has


it, Manus Sanaque in Cobile Sanaquorum, may here, at the expence of twopence, furnish himself with a parcel, which tho' it is but small, yet containeth mighty things of great Use and Wonderful Operation in the Bodies of Mankind, against all Distempers, whether Homogeneal or Complicated; whether deriv'd from your Parents, got by Infection, or proceeding from an ill Habit of your own Body.

'In the first place, Gentlemen, I here present you with a little inconsiderable Pill to look at, you see not much bigger than a Corn of Pepper, yet in this Diminutive Pampharmica, so powerful in effect, and of such excellent Vertues, that if you have Twenty Distempers lurking in the Mass of Blood, it shall give you just Twenty Stools, and every time it operates, it carries off a Distemper; but if your Blood's Wholesome, and your Body Sound, it will work you no more than the same quantity of Ginger bread. I therefore call it, from its admirable Qualities, Pilula Ton dobula, which signifies in the Greek, The Touch Stone of Nature; For by taking of this Pill you will truly discover what state of Health or Infirmity your Constitution is then under.

'In the next place, Gentlemen, I present you with an excellent outward application, call'd a Plaister; good against Green Wounds, old Fistulas and Ulcers, Pains and Aches, Contusions, Tumours or King's Evil, Spasms, Fractures, or Dislocations, or any Hurts whatsoever, received either by Sword, Cane, or Gun Shot, Knife, Saw, or Hatchet, Hammer, Nail or Tenter hook, Fire, Blast or Gunpowder, &c. And will continue its Vertue beyond Credit; and as useful seven years hence as at this present Moment, that you may lend it to your Neighbours in the time of Distress and Affliction; and, when it has perform'd Forty Cures 'twill be ne'er the Worse, but still retain its Integrity. Probatum Est,' etc.

Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, who wrote No. 572 of the Spectator (altered by Addison), gives an amusing account of one of these quacks. 'I remember one of those Public-spirited Artists at Hammersmith, who told his Audience " that he had been born and bred there, and that, having a special Regard for the place of his Nativity, he was determined to make a Present of five Shillings to as many as


would accept of it." The whole Crowd stood agape, and ready to take the Doctor at his Word; when putting his Hand into a long Bag, as every one was expecting his Crown Piece, he drew out a handful of little Packets, each of which he informed the Spectators was constantly sold at five Shillings and six pence, but that he would bate the odd five Shillings to every Inhabitant of that Place; the whole Assembly immediately closed with this generous Offer, and took off all his Physick, after the Doctor had made them vouch for one another, that there were no Foreigners among them, but that they were all Hammersmith Men.' The whole article is an amusing expose of the quackery then at its height. 'I unluckily called to mind a Story of an Ingenious Gentleman of the last Age, who, lying violently afflicted with the Gout, a Person came and offered his Service to Cure him by a Method, which he assured him was Infallible; the Servant who received the Message, carried it up to his Master, who, enquiring whether the Person came on Foot, or in a Chariot; and being informed he was on Foot: Go, says he, send the Knave about his Business: Was his Method as infallible as he pretends, he would long before now have been in his Coach and Six.'


[1] The Dispensary, by Thos. Brown.

[2] Spectator, No. 16.

[3] London Spy.

[4] The Dispensary

[5] Essay on Criticism.

[6] Miss Tempest, one of Queen Anne's Maids of Honour.

[7] The Tatler, No. 44.

[8] Journal, April 11, 1711.

[9] Diary, July 14, 1714.

[10] In the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall.

[11] On this occasion there were 300.

[12] These 'touch pieces' had on one side St. George overcoming the dragon, and were called 'angels.'

[13] Luttrell, March 20, 1703.

[14] Journal, May 8, 1711.

[15] If the pale Walker pants with weak'ning Ills, His sickly Hand is stor'd with Friendly Bills: From hence, he learns the seventh born Doctor's Fame, From hence he learns the cheapest Tailor's name.' -Trivia, book 2.

[16] Oct. 8, 1702.

[17] London Spy.