« AnteriorContinuar »
desire some industrious people have to avail themselves of the general disposition of the time. The faculty of imitation is very largely developed nowadays, as witness what follows as soon as any enterprising theatrical manager makes "a hit," and so it is pleasant to find that an honest penny was turned in humble imitation of the great bottle swindle :—
To be seen O/mr Leader's, the Old Horseshoe, in Wood Street, Cheapside, from Nine till Twelve, and from Four to Seven o'clock, Lately brought from France,
A FULL grown Mouse alive, confined in a small two ounce Phial, the Neck of which is not a quarter of an inch Diameter. This amusing Creature has lived in the Phial three Years and a half without Drink or any Sustenance but Bread only. It cleans out its little Habitation, and hath many other pretty Actions, as surprising as agreeable; but particularly creates wonderful diversion with a Fly, and is allowed to be an extraordinary Curiosity, never before seen in England; at the Expense of 6d. each Person.
Note.—Gentlemen or Ladies who don't chuse to come, it shall be cairied to them, by sending a line to Mr Leader.
Like everything else of its kind, the excitement in connection with the bottle-hoax soon gave way to fresh topics of public interest. The trick has, however, been revived occasionally with more or less effect; and Theodore Hook's cruel, and not particularly clever, hoax, which made a house in Berners Street notorious and its occupants miserable, was but a phase of the swindle just related; and being so, loses whatever merit it possessed in the eyes of those who will sacrifice anything to a joke, so long, of course, as it is original and does not interfere with their own comfort or convenience. Deprived of its originality, Hook's exploit stands forth as a trick hardly excusable in a boy, and utterly at variance with the character of a gentleman. Now in the bottle-hoax there was quite a different element; people were invited to the theatre to see that which they must have known was utterly impossible. In obedience to the laws which govern human nature, they readily accepted the invitation, and also, in accordance with the same laws, they resented the affront they considered had been put upon them. A moral might be deduced from this, were it not for the fact, that if any hoax analogous to the bottletrick were to be advertised to-morrow in a conspicuous manner, the proportion of dupes would be at least as great as it was in 1749. Perhaps greater.
QUACKS AND IMPOSTORS.
UACKS have been in existence so long, have received
so much of the confidence of the people, and have
afforded such capital to satirists and humourists, that they have become almost a necessity of our existence, from a literary as well as from a domestic point of view. They also add considerably to the revenue, if only through the impost upon patent medicines; for though many may be astonished and horrified to hear it, all patent medicines—i.e., all medicines which bear the inland-revenue stamp—are of necessity quack, and although many partisans may endeavour to prove that in the particular case each may select, this is not so, the qualification must fairly be applied, if applied to anything, to all medicines which are supposed to specifically remedy various diseases in various systems, no matter what the peculiarities of either. It can hardly matter whether the inventor of the general remedy be learned doctor or impudent charlatan, the medicine, as soon as ever it assumes specific powers, and is to be administered by or to anybody, is quack, not only in the proper acceptation of the term, but in its original signification. Quacks are, with a few notable exceptions, a very different body now from what they were in the last century, when they killed more than they cured, and when drugs were compounded with a recklessness which seems quite impossible in these moderate days. Just and proper legislation has clipped the wings of the vile impostors who used to trade upon the weaknesses of human nature, and with the exception of those pestiferous practitioners whose advertisements are as noxious as their prescriptions, and who find the fittest possible media for publication, quacks are no longer in existence except as purveyors of patent medicines, pills, ointment, and plasters; and so if there is no cure there is also no kill. Formerly the quack prescribed and compounded, and then he was indeed dangerous, and we cannot better prove this than by means of a remark in the Gentleman's Magazine of July 1734 about Joshua Ward, an advertisement in reference to whom is to be found in the historical part of this book. The paragraph in the old magazine runs: "There was an extraordinary advertisement in the newspapers this month concerning the great cures in all distempers performed with one medicine, a pill or drop, by Joshua Ward, Esq., lately arrived from Paris, where he had done the like cures. 'Twas said our physicians, particularly Sir Hans Sloane, had found out his secret, but 'twas judged so violent a prescription, that it would be deemed malepractice to apply it as a dose to old and young and in all cases." And again, in the Obituary in the same periodical for 1736, there is an advertisement bearing on this so-called remedy rather unfavourably. It runs thus :—
Vesey Hart, Esq. of Lincoln's Inn. About 15 Months ago he took the celebrated Pill, which had at first such violent effects as to throw him into Convulsions and deprive him of his Sight. On recovery he fell into Consumption.
Joshua Ward was rather a celebrity about that time, even among quacks, as the following lines from the Gentleman's Magazine of July 1734 will show. The heading is—
Univ. Spec. On Wakd's Drops.
Gregious Ward, you boast with success sure,
When it in ^ n cures ambition's pain
Or ends the Megrims of Sir James1 brain,
Of wounded conscience when it heals the smart,
When F d it can give of wit a taste,
Make Harriot pious or lorima chaste;
In the Daily Advertiser of June 10, 1736, there is a puff advertisement for Ward, which runs :—
We hear that by the Queen's appointment, Joshua Ward, Esq; and eight or ten persons, who in extraordinary Cases have receiv'd great benefit by taking his remedies, attended at the Court at Kensington on monday night last, and his patients were examin'd before her Majesty by three eminent surgeons, several persons of quality being present, when her Majesty was graciously pleas'd to order money to be distributed amongst the patients, and congratulated Mr Ward on his great success.
In the Grub Street Journal of June 24 of the same year is an article on the paragraph, in which it is stated that only seven persons attended at the palace, and that these were proved to be impostors who were in collusion with Ward. The Journal is very strong against the quack, and the article concludes with the following lines, which are in fact a summary of what has been said in the criticism upon Ward's fresh attempt to gull the public:—
Seven wonderful Cures.