Portrait of a quack

quacksIn 1804 The Medical and Physical Journal decided to name and shame some of London’s most notorious quacks.  One of the unscrupulous practitioners exposed to public humiliation was a certain Dr Day:

He was born in  Holland, though of German parents, of the name of Dies, which the Doctor has translated into the English synonym of Day, under which name he first made his appearance in London about 1775, when he kept an elegant equipage with two footmen in green livery; his dress was showy, with brilliant shoe and knee buckles, white silk stocking and elegantly wrought clothes. 

Dr Day was fond of inventing alter egos for himself, but when his business began to pick up he soon found it difficult to be in several places at once, so…

he kept Agents, little inferior to himself in artful delusion; Dr Rock, Dr Christie, etc, by whom, rendezvous were appointed for the reception of the credulous.  Dr Day himself then lived in Sherard Street, Golden Square; but at the period I allude to, the name of Rock, who had previously resided with Mayersbach, was upon the door; at the same time he kept a quack warehouse at No 3, James Street, Covent Garden.

The author then reproduces some of Dr Day’s advertisements; here is a sample:

To the PUBLIC.

Lately discovered, a new and easy method of curing old standing coughs, consumptions, all disorders of the lungs, asthmatic hooping coughs, tertian and quartan agues, scorbutic and all sorts of eruptions of the skin, cancers, piles, rheumatism, and some other private diseases.  Those who are afflicted with any of the aforesaid disorders, may and will be cured by bringing or sending their morning’s urine to the Doctor’s in Greek Street, Soho, the third door from Compton Street, No. 3 over the door, facing the George.  By the doctor’s new method, they will relieve in a few days, according to the disorder.  He may be spoke with from ten till two every day (Sundays excepted).  The doctor is possessed of the most authentic testimonies of the cures he has performed in the most inveterate disorders, and also those that were declared incurable by other gentlemen of the faculty.  The Poor advice for nothing.

N.B. He also cures all disorders of the eyes without fail.

Not claiming much, is he?

Another advertisement concludes with a strange addendum:

Genteel people of either sex may lodge and board in the doctor’s house.

Dr Day cannot be accused of missing a business opportunity.  His most serious sin was advertising a medicine which would induce an abortion, a criminal offence in the late eighteenth century.  Perhaps surprisingly, the author of the article is measured in his criticism:

It ought, however, to be recorded, in extenuation of Dr Day, that his medicine to promote abortion, was an harmless deception, although it was found that the demand for it was so great, as to have enabled him to pocket as much as ten guineas a day; till the deluded females found it inactive, and consequently not injurious to their health; and perhaps, by adopting this means of deluding them, he saved them from attempting some really dangerous expedient… and he might certainly be considered as very officious and gallant, in gratifying the wishes of the female sex, in not only offering them a bed as well as the other sex, but likewise a remedy, to rid them of an unwelcome burthen; and in case of its failure, affording them private apartments for their easy accommodation.

That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose.

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