I originally posted this on my (now defunct) other blog before I started The Quack Doctor, so I thought I’d move it over here as not many people will have seen it before:
Are your spirits hurried and your brain in need of comforting? Are you suffering from the effects of hard drinking? Do your parts need warming and invigorating? Look no further. Here’s an 18th-century panacea to combat every possible woe.
The advert below is from an Adams’s Weekly Courant, which happened to be the main newspaper in Chester during the time my book is set. The paper was run by Mrs Elizabeth Adams, who took over her husband’s printing business after his death.
RESTORATIVE VIPER DROPS
THESE Drops have for these twenty Years past, in the Proprietor’s private Practice, proved themselves upon some hundred patients, to be an excellent Medicine, beyond any other Chymical Preparation offered to the Publick within the Compass of his Knowledge.
They restore greatly in weak Habits; strengthen weak Backs, warm and invigorate Parts that are languid and weaken’d by Gleets, or other Injuries; they help Digestion; comfort a cold Stomach, and expel Wind both from thence and the Bowels; they remedy the effects of hard Drinking; cleanse the Ureters from slimy and sabulous matter, thereby taking away Gravel pains in the back; compose hurry’d spirits, and take off Flutterings and Lowness, comforting the Brain and causing Chearfulness; they are a noble Balsamick also for all outward Bruises and Wounds, consolidating the Part injured, almost instantly; cure Burns or Scaldings, if immediately applied, in a surprising Manner, and without leaving disagreeable Marks or Eschars.
Any Persons by applying to the Proprietor, at his Shop, will be directed to People of undoubted Credit, who will satisfy them of the great good Effects of these Drops, in the above Cases, for which they are recommended, and in some very dangerous and complicated Disorders, not here inferred, for the sake of brevity.
They are pleasant to take, not giving the least Nausea or Offence to the tenderest stomach.
They are sold in bottles of Three Shillings, with the Cypher and Inscription, as here in the Margin, and in Eighteen-penny Bottles, at the Chymist’s Shop, the Golden Head and Key, at the corner of Bell Savage Gateway, Ludgate-Hill; at Mr Jefferys’s Bookseller, in Pope’s-Head Alley, Cornhill; and also at the Printer’s of this paper.
And for the real Excellence of this Medicine, and its absolute Difference from some Things called VIPER DROPS, any Persons may satisfy themselves, by coming to his Shop, with a Lump of Sugar at any Time, and have a proper Dose of them gratis, for their Satisfaction and Benefit.
At the above Places may be had, The PATENT ANTIVENEREAL ELECTUARY, Price Six Shillings in the Pot, with Directions.
Source: Adams’s Weekly Courant (Chester) 13 August 1754
“Dr” Richard Rock was a high-profile quack whose usual stomping-ground was Covent Garden – as shown in Hogarth’s The Four Times of the Day (Morning) where his products are being advertised on a billboard (difficult to see in the picture here, but it’s just above the page’s head to the left of the scene). Although the advertising copy refers exclusively to London, Rock probably used the printers of the Weekly Courant and other provincial newspapers as distributors.
If the Viper Drops had lived up to all their claims, there would have been no need for Chester Infirmary to be set up a year later, and I would have had to find something else to write a book about.