The following speech appeared in a comic 18th-century booklet called The Harangues or Speeches of Several Famous Mountebanks in Town or Country, which makes fun of high-profile medical salesmen by attributing to them wild claims about their remedies. Later editions (under the title The Harangues, or Speeches, of Several Celebrated Quack Doctors in Town and Country) included extra content such as Dr Rock’s speech, some satirical recipes for common ailments, and quack-related songs.
Henry Morley’s Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair (1859) refers to this ‘little undated book‘ as having appeared in around 1690. The earliest edition on ECCO is stated to be 1725, though the digitised title page has the date 1746 handwritten on it. Whatever the original date, it was popular enough to be reprinted several times during the first half of the 18th century, and for components of it to be published separately as broadsides.
The speech could have some basis in fact – it is always possible someone took notes when Mr Jones was speaking at York – but it’s unlikely they would have been able to get it verbatim in the midst of an entertained audience, and even less likely that it wouldn’t get embellished for the purposes of humour. In January 1859, however, The Lancet took it literally, quoting a large proportion of the speech (as printed in Morley’s book) to show the similarities between the mountebanks of old and the spiritualists and homeopaths of their own day.
In contrast to the ‘quasi-scientific jargon‘ of modern quackery, ‘It gives a mental refreshment to turn to the laughable orations of the more honest mountebanks of bygone days.‘ Unfortunately, The Lancet missed out on a laugh – Morley had left out the bit about ‘bum-peeping.’
The Harangue, or Quack Speech of T. JONES, at York.
Gentlemen and Ladies,
YOU that have a Mind to preserve your own and your Families Health, may here, at the Expence of a Two-penny Piece, furnish yourselves with a Packet, which contains several Things of great Use, and wonderful Operation in human Bodies against all Distempers whatsoever.
Gentlemen, Because I present myself among you, I would not have you to think, I am any Upstart Glister-pipe Bum-peeping Apothecary; no, Gentlemen, I am no such person: I am a regular Physician, and have travelled most Kingdoms in the World, purely to do my Country good. I am not a Person, that takes Delight, as a great many do, to fill your Ears with hard Words, in telling you the Nature of Turpet Mineral,Mercurii Dulcis, Balsamum Capiviet, Astringents, Laxations, Harboundations, Circulations, Vibrations, Salivations, Excoriations, Scaldations, or Urinations. These Quacks may fitly be called Solimites, because they prescribe only one Sort of Physick for all Distempers, that is, a Vomit.
If a Man has bruized his Elbow, Take a Vomit, says the Doctor. If he has any Corns; Take a Vomit. If he has torn his Coat; Take a Vomit. For the Jaundice, Fevers, Flax, Gripes, Gout, Stone, Pox, nay, even the Distempers, that only my Friend, the famous Dr. Tuff, whom you all know, as the Hocognicles, Marthambles, the Moon-Paul, and the Strong-Fives, A Vomit tantum. Gentlemen, these Impostors value killing a Man, no more than I value drawing an old Stump of a Tooth, which has long troubled any of you; so that, I say, they are a Pack of Tag-Rag, Asifœtida, Glister-Pipe Doctors. Now, Gentlemen, having given you a short Account of this spurious Race, I shall present you with my Cordial Pills, being the Tincture of the Sun, having Dominion from the same Light, giving Relief and Comfort to all Mankind: They cause all Complexions to laugh or smile, in the very taking them; they presently cure all Dizziness, Swimming, Dulness in the Head, and Scurvy.
In the next Place, I recommend to you my incomparable Balsam, which heals all Sores, Cuts, Ulcers, new and old. ‘Tis good for Burns, Scalds, Swellings, Bruizes, Strains, Aches, Weakness in the Joints and Limbs, &c. it cures the King’s-Evil, sore Breasts, and scald Heads; and it is taken inwardly for a Cough, Consumption, short Breath, Weakness of the Back, or any inward Hurt.
The next unparalell’d Medicine contain’d in this my Packet, is an admirable Electuary, celebrated throughout all England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Dominion of Wales, and Town of Berwick upon Tweed. It cures all curable Diseases, by very easy and gentle purging; it causes an Appetite, helps all Distempers in the Eyes, Face, swell’d Lips; and opens the Stoppage of the Liver and Spleen, &c.
The next I present you with, is my Specifick, which certainly cures all Agues in a Minute.
The next is my red Plaister, which radically cures the most inveterate Rheumatism and Gout in a few Days Time.
The last, and most useful Medicine prepared throughout the whole World, is this, my Pulvis Catharticus: Its Virtues are such, it will, equally with the Unicorn’s Horn, expel the rankest Poison; ’tis a perfect, safe, and speedy Cure, for all Venereal Maladies, of what Degree soever, and fortifies the Heart against all Fainting.
I do assure you, Country Folk, these Medicines are as good as any Physician can make, or Patient take; their Virtues are too well known, to say any more; so I shall leave you to experience them. And so I wish you Health and Happiness.
You may come to my Lodgings, at the Barber’s Pole and Stone Gate, at Home, from Seven to Eleven.