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In seven years before the use of bark, that is, from the year 1629 to the year 1636, there died
210, or 1 in 3741 15,513, or 1 in 3 10,484, or 1 in 4
of all who died.
of all who died.
of all who died.
Thus ague was almost as deadly as consumption, and carried off nearly a fourth of the whole population of England who died during these seven years in which bark was not used. The next seven years embrace from 1653 to 1660, when bark was coming into use, and the subjoined table shows the difference :
There died of measles
399, or 1 in 259. There died of consumption 23,707, or 1 in 2.
We observe the mortality of ague drops from 1 in 41 to 1 in 63. Let us pass over eighty years, during which time bark had been in general use, and take the seven years from 1734 to 1742. The result is as follows:
There died of measles.
It is right to observe, that these tables are not made up to prove this fact, or any fact in particular. They were compiled for general purposes by Dr. Short, and published in 1750; and I have extracted these three diseases to show
The following advertisement appeared in the London Times of that period, entitled, "Mercurius Politicus, comprising the sum of Foreign Intelligence with the Affairs now on Foot, in Three Nations, for the Information of the People. From Thursday, December 9, to Thursday, December 16, 1658:""The Fever Bark, commonly called the Jesuit's Powder, which is so famous for the cure of all manner of Agues, brought over by James Thompson, Merchant, of Antwerp, is to be had either at his own lodgings at the Black Spread
Eagle, in the Old Bailey, over against Black and White Court, or at Mr. John Crook's, Bookseller, at the Ship, in St. Paul's Churchyard, with Directions for Use; which Bark or Powder is attested to be perfectly true by Dr. Prujean and other eminent Doctors and Physicians who have made experience of it." This curious advertisement proves that, in 1658, the bark was scarce, so that we could not expect its use to be so common in England as to seriously affect the mortality of ague for a considerable time afterwards.
how little consumption had varied in the havoc it had committed, while measles varied considerably, and ague had almost disappeared. There may be other reasons for this, but the use of bark is the most obvious, and none other has been suggested.'
Peruvian Bark, as the name implies, is obtained from a tree indigenous in Peru. Although it is certain that the use of it in Europe was derived from the cure of the ague in the person of the Countess of Cinchona, the Viceregent of Peru; yet, according to Humboldt, the natives of the district have great dread of its effects, believing it produces mortification. However this may be, it was from the aborigines that the vice-regal court acquired their knowledge of its powers over ague. This cure was effected in 1638. In the following year, 1639, it was first used in Spain, whither it was brought by the Jesuits. It was much opposed by the regulars of the medical profession, and would probably have been put down as quackery, had it not been for Pope Innocent X., who ordered a trial to be made of its power in ague. This trial was satisfactory, and it was freely used in the Roman States.
In 1653 a book was written against it by Chiftelius. "On the appearance of this publication," says Sir G. Baker, who has given the fullest historical account of the matter in the English language, "the author received the highest compliments from his brethren, as if he had relieved the world of a monster or a pestilence." And popular prejudice for a time ran so high against it, that its use was confined to the Papal States. The date of its introduction into England, is 1653.3 That it was not
countenanced then, or till long afterwards, by "the faculty,"
1 New Observations on City, Town, and Country Bills of Mortality. By Dr. T. Short. 1750.-Dr. Short evidently entertained this opinion himself, for he observes upon this table, in reference to the diminished mortality from ague, "The most beneficial remedies
or specifics in some diseases were the discovery of chance, not philosophy; as the bark for intermittents."-p. 37.
2 Sir G. Baker, Medical Tracts. London, 1818.
3 Morton, Opera omnia. Lugd.,
is pretty certain; it was used by the bold, and we may presume the young and pushing, but looked on with doubt and dislike by the older, more cautious heads of the profession. In the year 1658, the death of a certain Alderman Underwood,' who had taken the bark, made a great stir in London. As if an alderman had never died of ague before!—whereas, according to the tables of mortality already referred to, there probably died of ague that year, over England, about 1300 persons; including, doubtless, the normal proportion of aldermen. That the death of this alderman, and that of a certain Captain Potter, should be recorded so emphatically as the consequence of ague with bark, may be taken as a positive proof that the greatest man of his age did not take bark, although ill of a tertian ague. Dr. Bates, physician to Oliver Cromwell, describes his fatal illness as "slow fever, that at length degenerated into a bastard tertian ague." On examination of his body after death, the same authority tells us that the source of the distemper was the spleen, which "though sound to the eyes," filled with matter like to the lees of oil." 2 Whether Cromwell's life could have been saved by the timely administration of Jesuit's powder, must remain among the questions which can never be answered.
"The most important man cannot stay. Did the world's history depend on an hour, that hour is not given. Whence it comes that these would have beens are mostly a vanity; and the world's history could never in the least be what it would, or might, or should, by any manner of potentiality, be, but simply and altogether what it is."3 So writes Carlyle of Mirabeau-and the passage is applicable to Cromwell. Had bark been properly administered to him, his life might have been prolonged, and he might have made a will, and—but why pursue a vain speculation?
1 Sydenham. The Life of Sydenham, by Dr. Latham, prefixed to the translation of his works by Dr. Greenhill.
2 Elenchus Motuum Nuperorum in Anglia, by Dr. George Bates, p. 236. 3 Carlyle's French Revolution.
There can be no doubt that this Dr. Bates, who was one of those who received Cromwell's successor, Charles II., and is described by an eye-witness of the scene, as "the Chief Physician, renowned in the skill of Physic and of Latine," would have felt himself polluted by the presence of a certain Richard Talbot, who did more than any one man to introduce the use of bark into Europe.
Talbot's history is curious. He seems to have begun life as an apprentice to an apothecary at Cambridge. In 1663, he was a scholar of St. John's College, Cambridge, but whether he took a degree or not, does not appear. From Cambridge he went to the coast of Essex, where he acquired a great reputation by the cure of ague. came to London, where he seems to have had a large practice, but to have been looked upon as a sort of quackat least, his contemporary medical writers have not a good word to bestow on him. Lister calls him "a miserable quack;" Gideon Harvey, "a debauched apothecary's apprentice. Sydenham hints his dislike of him. How far this antipathy was owing to professional jealousy, is an undecided question. That he did effect cures is certain; that he did so in an unprofessional manner, equally certain. So we may, without a breach of charity, suppose that he was heartily hated by the profession,-really, for his greater success; avowedly, for his quackery.
His success seems incontestable.
Madame de Sevigné
gives the following account of his adventures in Paris in
1 Motus Compositi, by Thom. Skin
M.D., p. 79.
2 The Diseases of London. Gideon Harvey is fond of using strong language. Speaking of a French surgeon, of renown in London in his day, he says:-"However, he hath the reputation of a surgeon here, which any French lacquey, having only served a barber ten or twelve months, and coming into England with a pot of
turpentine, a lancet, and a stock of impudence, shall never miss of, viz. the reputation of a famous surgeon lately come out of France. By the first ingredient he is to cure you of the chaude pisse; by the second of the fever; and by the third ingredient he makes you believe he is as great a physician as he is a surgeon, whereas he is only a surgeon of three ingredients." -Casus Medico Chirurgus. 1678.
1680. "The English Physician has promised the King (Louis XIV.) in so positive a manner, even on the forfeiture of his life, to cure his Highness (the Dauphin) both of his vomiting and his fevers, that if he should fail, I believe, on my conscience, they would throw him out of the window; and on the other hand, should his predictions prove as true in this case as they have done in most others that he has had the management of, I shall be for having a temple erected to him, as to a second Esculapius. It is a pity that Molière is dead; he would make an excellent scene of Daguin" (first physician to the King), "who is put at his wits' end at not being possessed of the panacea, and the rest of the tribe, who cannot tell what to make of the experiments, the secrets, and the almost divine prognostications of this little foreigner. The King will have him make up his medicines in his presence, and trusts the management of the Prince wholly in his hands. The Dauphiness is already much better, and yesterday the Count de Grammont saluted Daguin with the following
"Talbot est vainqueur de trépas,
La Dauphine est convalescente,
Que chacun chante, &c."1
Talbot cured the Dauphin, and received 2000 louis d'or for the secret, besides an annual pension of 2000 francs. Having become rich, Talbot became respectable; he was knighted, and, as Sir Richard, received the honours of a splendid funeral, and a monument at Cambridge.
There can be no question that Talbot had a strong tinge of the quackish element. Still, we must do, him the justice of admitting, that he was not a false pretender to knowledge, like most quacks: his offence was against the minor morals of his profession. He evidently attempted
1 Lettres de M. Sevigné. Letter dated Nov. 8, 1680.