The Guttae Vitae, or Vegetable Life Drops

Although no proprietor is shown in the following advertisement, the Vegetable Life Drops were one of several cures touted under the name Dr Walter De Roos. De Roos was an enigmatic character and the name was purported to be an alias for one John (or George) Robinson, who might well have bought the business in 1858 from brothers Alfred and Samuel Barker. Whether or not De Roos was ever a real person, his Compound Renal Pills were still being sold under that name in the early 20th century.


, Protected by Royal Let-
ters Patent;  Sanctioned  by  the  Faculte  de  France,  &c., have in
numberless   instances  proved  their  superiority  over  every  other
advertised  Remedy  for  langour,  lassitude,  depression  of  spirits,
irritability,  excitement,  fear,  distaste  and   incapacity   for   society,
study or  business,  indigestion,  pains  and  palpitation  in  the  side,
giddiness,  noise  in  the  head,  &c.  This  medicine  strengthens the
vitality of the  whole  system,  gives  energy to the muscles, speedily
removes nervousness, renovates  the  impaired  powers of life, and
invigorates  the  most  shattered  constitution.  For   skin   eruptions,
sore throat,  pains  in  the  bones, and those diseases in which mer-
cury, sarsaparilla, &c.,  are  too  often  employed,  to  the  utter  ruin
of health, its surprising efficacy has only to be tested.
   Before wasting valuable  time  in  seeking  aid  from  instruments,
electricity, galvanism,  with  similar  absurdities  professing  to  set
aside medicines, by American impostors and others, whose boas-
ted “distinguished qualifications”  consist  solely  of  their  consum-
mate  impudence,  sufferers  will  do  well   to  make  fair  trial  of  a
remedy, which concocted on scientific principles cannot fail.
Price 4s. 6d. And 11s., or four times  the  latter  at  33s.  per  bottle,
through all Chemists,  or  direct  from  25,  Bedford Place, WHERE


Source: The North Wales Chronicle, October 24 1863

For all this advert’s outrage against impostors, Walter De Roos was summoned to Uxbridge Petty Sessions in 1864 by solicitor and anti-quackery campaigner William Talley under the New Medical Act , which provided for a fine of £20 for anyone falsely claiming medical qualifications.The doctor did not turn up, but was represented by his “learned counsel” – coincidentally also called Mr Robinson – whose entertaining exchanges with Talley are documented in Extraordinary Success of the New Mode of Treatment. The prosecution failed and De Roos – or whoever he was – went on to cause further damage.

He was implicated in a suicide in 1865, when 24-year-old James Miles was found drowned in the canal at Higham, Kent, having suffered a period of depression. Among the deceased’s belongings were 30 letters and pamphlets from Dr De Roos impressing upon him that he must continue to take the doctor’s medicine – and demanding immediate payment for it. Bearing in mind De Roos’s pamphlets had titles like Private Hints on the Causes, Symptoms, and Cure of All the Secret Disorders Incident to Both Sexes and The Medical Adviser: On Certain Infirmities and Disorders of the Generative and Urinary Systems : the Premature Failure of Sexual Power, with Plain Directions for Its Perfect Restoration : Practical Observations on Marriage : Its Disqualifications, and Their Removal it is hardly surprising that the newly married young man was troubled.

Local surgeon Mr J.J. Ely said of the pamphlets: “I have no doubt whatever they would cause a great depression of spirits.”


One Comment:

  1. Pingback: Walter De Roos’ Compound Renal Pills « The Quack Doctor

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