I am the more pleased with these my Papers, since I find they have encouraged several Men of Learning and Wit to become my Correspondents: I Yesterday received the following Essay against Quacks, which I shall here communicate to my Readers for the Good of the Publick, begging the Writer's Pardon for those Additions and Retrenchments which I have made in it.
The Desire of Life is so natural and strong a Passion, that I have long since ceased to wonder at the great Encouragement which the Practice of Physick finds among us. Well-constituted Governments have always made the Profession of a Physician both honourable and advantageous. Homer's Machaon and Virgil's Japis were Men of Renown, Heroes in War, and made at least as much Havock among their Enemies as among their Friends. Those who have little or no Faith in the Abilities of a Quack will apply themselves to him, either because he is willing to sell Health at a reasonable Profit, or because the Patient, like a drowning Man, catches at every Twig, and hopes for Relief from the most Ignorant, when the most able Physicians give him none. Though Impudence and many Words are as necessary to these Itinerary Galens as a laced Hat or a Merry Andrew, yet they would turn very little to the Advantage of the Owner, if there were not some inward Disposition in the sick Man to favour the Pretensions of the Mountebank. Love of Life in the one, and of Mony in the other, creates a good Correspondence between them.
There is scarce a City in Great-Britain but has one of this Tribe, who takes it into his Protection, and on the Market-Day harangues the good People of the Place with Aphorisms and Receipts. You may depend upon it, he comes not there for his own private Interest, but out of a particular Affection to the Town. 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 an 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.
There is another Branch of Pretenders to this Art, who, without either Horse or Pickle-Herring, lie snug in a Garret, and send down Notice to the World of their extraordinary Parts and Abilities by printed Bills and Advertisements. These seem to have derived their Custom from an Eastern Nation which Herodotus speaks of, among whom it was a Law, that whenever any Cure was performed, both the Method of the Cure, and an Account of the Distemper, should be fixed in some Publick Place; but as Customs will corrupt, these our Moderns provide themselves of Persons to attest the Cure, before they publish or make an Experiment of the Prescription. I have heard of a Porter, who serves as a Knight of the Post under one of these Operators, and tho' he was never sick in his Life, has been cured of all the Diseases in the Dispensary. These are the Men whose Sagacity has invented Elixirs of all sorts, Pills and Lozenges, and take it as an Affront if you come to them before you are given over by every Body else. Their Medicines are infallible, and never fail of Success, that is of enriching the Doctor, and setting the Patient effectually at Rest.
I lately dropt into a Coffee-house at Westminster, where I found the Room hung round with Ornaments of this Nature. There were Elixirs, Tinctures, the Anodine Fotus, English Pills, Electuaries, and, in short, more Remedies than I believe there are Diseases. At the Sight of so many Inventions, I could not but imagine my self in a kind of Arsenal or Magazine, where store of Arms were reposited against any sudden Invasion. Should you be attack'd by the Enemy Side-ways, here was an infallible Piece of defensive Armour to cure the Pleurisie: Should a Distemper beat up your Head Quarters, here you might purchase an impenetrable Helmet, or, in the Language of the Artist, a Cephalic Tincture: If your main Body be assaulted, here are various Kinds of Armour in Case of various Onsets. I began to congratulate the present Age upon the Happiness Men might reasonably hope for in Life, when Death was thus in a manner Defeated; and when Pain it self would be of so short a Duration, that it would but just serve to enhance the Value of Pleasure: While I was in these Thoughts, 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 that 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. In like manner I concluded, that had all these Advertisers arrived to that Skill they pretend to, they would have had no Need for so many Years successively to publish to the World the Place of their Abode, and the Virtues of their Medicines. One of these Gentlemen indeed pretends to an effectual Cure for Leanness: What Effects it may have had upon those who have try'd it I cannot tell; but I am credibly informed, that the Call for it has been so great, that it has effectually cured the Doctor himself of that Distemper. Could each of them produce so good an Instance of the Success of his Medicines, they might soon persuade the World into an Opinion of them.
I observe that most of the Bills agree in one Expression, viz. that (with God's Blessing) they perform such and such Cures: This Expression is certainly very proper and emphatical, for that is all they have for it. And if ever a Cure is performed on a Patient where they are concerned, they can claim no greater Share in it than Virgil's Japis in the curing of Æneas; he tried his Skill, was very assiduous about the Wound, and indeed was the only visible Means that relieved the Hero; but the Poet assures us it was the particular Assistance of a Deity that speeded the Operation. An English Reader may see the whole Story in Mr. Dryden's Translation.
Prop'd on his Lance the pensive Heroe stood, And heard, and saw unmov'd, the Mourning Crowd. The fam'd Physician tucks his Robes around, With ready Hands, and hastens to the Wound. With gentle Touches he performs his Part, This Way and that, solliciting the Dart, And exercises all his Heavenly Art. All softning Simples, known of Sov'reign Use, He presses out, and pours their noble Juice; These first infus'd, to lenifie the Pain, He tugs with Pincers, but he tugs in vain. Then to the Patron of his Art he pray'd; The Patron of his Art refus'd his Aid. But now the Goddess Mother, mov'd with Grief, And pierc'd with Pity, hastens her Relief. A Branch of Healing Dittany she brought, Which in the Cretan Fields with Care she sought; Rough is the Stem, which woolly Leaves surround; The Leafs with Flow'rs, the Flow'rs with Purple crown'd: Well known to-wounded Goats; a sure Relief To draw the pointed Steel, and ease the Grief. This Venus brings, in Clouds involv'd; and brews Th' extracted Liquor with Ambrosian Dews, And od'rous Panacee: Unseen she stands, Temp'ring the Mixture with her heav'nly Hands: And pours it in a Bowl, already crown'd With Juice of medc'nal Herbs, prepared to bathe the Wound. The Leech, unknowing of superior Art, Which aids the Cure, with this foments the Part; And in a Moment ceas'd the raging Smart. Stanched is the Blood, and in the bottom stands: The Steel, but scarcely touched with tender Hands, Moves up, and follows of its own Accord; And Health and Vigour are at once restor'd. Japis first perceiv'd the closing Wound; And first the Footsteps of a God he found. Arms, Arms! he cries, the Sword and Shield prepare, And send the willing Chief, renew'd to War. This is no mortal Work, no cure of mine, Nor Art's effect, but done by Hands Divine.
[Footnote 1: Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, with alterations by Addison.]Translation of motto: