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.
THE MOST WONDERFUL MEDICINE IN THE WORLD!!
CURE IN FOUR WEEKS.— THE GUTTÆ VITÆ, or,
VEGETABLE LIFE DROPS, 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
THOUSANDS OF TESTIMONIALS MAY BE SEEN.
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.”