Whom he stript and whipt, for wise Men hereafter,
To make them the scorn and scene of their laughter.
To their joy sleeps here our three Kingdoms sorrow,
Till the Resurrection bids him, Good morrow.
They're neither cheap nor speedy in their Cure.
Health is the gift of Heaven, and so to us,
They will have God alone propitious.
Thus some Physicians the Ague turn Into a Fever, as they please we burn;
Then sneeze by fits, alas we cannot tell
Without the Doctors Gold how to be well:
They turn Disease into Disease, till we
Worship the Urinals, visit for the Fee.
Whereas throughout the danger of thy Skill
Thou didst retain God and Religion still.
Our Healths are owed unto thy Charity:
Thou spend'st thy self for to do good; and we
Have so our humane Frailties now forsook.
To live to Honour thee, and praise this BOOK.
- F. B.
"Me? But you see Culpeper did. It was quite central to medicine then, as all herbs and medicines were under the aegis of particular zodiacal signs, and Culpeper did not repudiate Astrology, but embraced the actions of the stars and planets on human physique and health. Also, as we saw with jasper and gold, and many other stones, there was a great belief in the efficacy of various crystals and earthen compounds for affect. Take, for example, this," and I proceeded once more to read from Fragmenta Aurea:
"'Take Oil of Crystal, drawn by the Art of the Alchymist, let him that is troubled with the Stone take a Dram of it at a time in a good draught, either of White or Rhenish Wine, and it will break the Stone ....' I won't trouble your delicate ears with how he suggested testing the efficacy of that cure."
"Thanks for small favors," said Deckle. "But there you see, again - white wine. It must have made much that was unpalatable go down easier. What do you think was this Oil of Crystal?"
"I don't know," I replied, owning up to a small area of ignorance. "I must research that. But see, Culpeper states this potion to have been made by the Art of the Alchymist. Chemistry, Medicine, Astrology, Alchymy, - it was all part of the larger world view of the educated man of the seventeenth century. It really does make one think.
"It surely is different from today's world of medicine."
"Oh, I think it is all really much, much closer than one might wish to today's practices.
After all, people go to doctors and accept what is diagnosed and recommended with such blind faith. The common man in the streets, or the rich banker or the college professor all take their medicine with a gulp, a grimace and a little prayer for its efficacy (whether a believer or not)."
"I think there was much more grimacing going on in Culpeper's time," said Deckle.
I laughed. "Oh, for sure. Just listen to these! And I warn, these are not for the easily disgusted! Haw Haw! de gustibus and all that, eh?"
"'For the Sciatica, take a Gallon of Urine, I suppose it were best of the Party that is Deceased [sic], boil it and scum it well till it be clear, then put to it a Quart of black Snails, such as you shall find in the Meadows without shells (he means slugs, haw!) boil them together, till it be thick like a Pultiss, then spread it upon a Cloath, and apply it to the grieved place.'"
I peeked over at Deckle. He was firmly concentrating on his motoring.
I continued. "Snake bites! Yes, an excellent remedy for snake bites. 'The best way that I know for the biting of an Adder is this: Catch the same Adder that bit you, as she is easily caught, cut her open, and take out her heart and swallow it down whole.'" Another peek at William. He was holding up.
"Ah, 'tis good we are not plagued so much any more with the plague. Now there was desperation mixed with black hope, indeed! I read on, : 'Take a Cock-Chicken, pull off the Feathers, till the Rump be bare, then hold the bare Fundament of the Chicken to a Plague Sore, and it will attract the Venom to it from all parts of the Body, and die; when he is dead ... take another and use likewise; you may perceive when all the Venom is drawn out for you shall see the chicken no longer pant nor gape for breath; the sick party will instantly recover.'"
"Oh for heaven's sake, Booknoodle, that is really too much! Such twaddle!"
"Yes, it was ignorant, but it was because Heaven beckoned prematurely that they tried such twaddle as you call it. In their mind it was the grave or sitting there with a featherless chicken on their head; maybe it would work, maybe not. What harm? Have you ever tried it?"
"Tried it? Tried it?! Tying a plucked chicken to my body? Even with plague I would not do such a silly thing!"
"I doubt the plague victim was concerned with such trivial matters as his dignity or how buffoonish he looked. It seems that the entire world around man was open to interpretation as a source for cures. Every nook and cranny and every small creature that might hide therein was a possible cure. Earth worms crushed and dried ... sow bugs for a decoction ... spider webs (one sits under a full spider web holding on to a particular thought in one's mind and a particular object in one's mouth) ... dung, snails - the whole biological universe was all one big medicine cabinet. Sure, some of it was confoundedly illogical; but there was logic behind much of it - and observation and experience."
"How much logic or observation could there have been for sitting under a spider's web?"
"A good point, Deckle. That certainly seems to cross the border into sheer quackery. Here's another bit of quaintness - it's one for leg cramps at night: 'If you use (when you go to bed) to rub your Finger between your Toes, and then smell to them, you shall find it an excellent prevention, both of cramps and Palsies.'"
"That's so ridiculous as to beggar belief," sniffed Deckle, indignantly.
"Yes, but it is written right here, see? And I must say, that there are so many marginal notes in the book, it is evident that it was well used - who knows what recipes and cures were suggested by which herbalists. Why, Culpeper even believed in witchcraft, as see this short bit of advice: 'If anyone be bewitched, put some Quicksilver in a Quill, stop it close, and lay it under the threshold of the Door.'"
"You will note a common, steadfast belief in the efficacy of actions that are in this book. Often the actions were combined with the ingestion of some potion or the application of some salve. But some of the actions recommended are, as you perceive, absurd. Haw! It was almost as if the good doctor was having his little joke on irritable patrons, such as this one: 'The Chin-Cough is easily cured, if the party troubled with it spit three or four times into a Frog's Mouth, but it must be into the Mouth of the same Frog, you may easily keep her alive in a little water'"
Deckle laughed loudly. "What's a little spit lost between man and frog, eh? At least he doesn't say to swallow the frog ... or the Quicksilver. How efficacious might that have been for anything? There seems to be a lot of messing about with things that were truly dangerous."
"Well Deckle, life was more precarious. But was it any more precarious than rushing along the highway at 30 miles and hour sitting atop some rattling contraption that might explode any minute?"
"Oh for heavens sake, this fine machine is not going to explode! And it does not rattle! That rattle's probably gravel in your stomach. Ha, ha."
"Well, I tell you, Willie, this bone-shaker seems to hit every hole in the roadway and I am getting a headache, so I shall stop reading these most excellent cures after imparting this last suggestive passage from Culpeper on the headache. It is general advice and one should pay heed."
"'Many Sicknesses, and Impediments may be in a Man's Head; wherefore whosoever hath any distemper in the head, must not keep the Head too hot nor too cold, but in an equal temper, to beware of engendering of Rheum, which is the cause of many infirmities. There is nothing that engender Rheum so much as doth the fatness of fish, and the heads of fish, and Surfeits, and taking cold in the Feet, and taking cold in the nape of the neck or Head; also they which have an Infirmity in the head must refrain from immoderate Sleep, especially after Meat; also they must abstain from drinking of Wine, and use not to drink Ale and Beer, the which is over-strong; Vociferation, Hollowing, Crying and high Singing, is not good for the Head: All things the which are Vaporous or do Fume, are not good for the Head: All things which are of evil favour, as Carrion, Sinks, wide Draughts, Piss-Bowls, Snuff of Candles, Dunghills, stinking Channels, and stinking Standing Waters, and stinking marshes, with such contagious Airs, do hurt the Head, the Brain, and Memory; all odiferous Savours are good for the Head, the Brain, and the Memory.'"
"Well Professor, all that was quite amazing. But first, it seems some three fourths of what Culpeper prescribed was delivered in some liquorous form: Ale, Beer, Wine, Cider. Then he says stay away from such. I must agree about avoidance of noisome and stinky places. But which is it to be? Avoid smells or use them? After all, just what constitutes an odiferous savour?"
"Harrumph. I do not know, and I do not care right now, blast!, but my confounded head is an awful throb. It is this vehicle ... and road, full of potholes. Or it is the vaporous fumes from the engine. Or both. Look there, ahead is an inn; pull in there and we will be able to avail ourselves of some liquorous potion - and caffeine to boot. Sitting warmly in front of an open hearth with some ale will alleviate this ailment!
And so he did; and so I did. I must admit that the ale, combined with the warmth of a fireplace was most efficacious. There were no powdered worms in the ale nor crushed ant eggs in the coffee.
Aside from the title first delineated at the beginning of this reminiscence, the book under discussion contains the following separate but unified titles, all by Culpeper:
1. Fragmenta Aurea: The First Golden Century of Chimical and Physical Judicial Aphorisms and Admirable Secrets (with) The Second, Third and Fourth Golden Century &c.
2. The Garden Plat; or, A very brief Account of such Herbs, &c. that excel, and are some of them most useful in Physical and Chirurgical Cures on emergent and sudden occasions.
3. The Celestial Governour: or, A Discourse, in which is plainly declared what Members of the Body are governed by the twelve Signs, and of the Diseases to them appropriate.
4. Cardiac Simplicia; or, A brief Account of some choice Simples, as are chiefly appropriated to the Heart. (Left unfinished by Nicholas Culpeper)
5. The Chirurgeon's Guide: or, The Errors of some unskillful Practitioners in Chirurgery Corrected.
6. Plebotomy Displayed; or, Perfect Rules for the Letting of Blood.
7. Urinal Conjectures. Brief Observations, with some Probable Predictions on the Sick Patient's Stool or Water.
8. The Treasury of Life: or, Salves for Every Sore. Experienced and tryed Receipts, for the Cure of the most usual Diseases that our frail Bodies are most subject to, wilst we remain in this Life. (Corrected by Nicholas Culpeper)
9. The Expert Lapidary: or, A Physical Treatise of the Secret Virtues of Stones.
10. Doctor Diet's Directory: or, The Physician's Vade Mecum. Being Short, but Safe, Rules to preserve Health in a Methodical way, passing by the Impertinencies and Niceties of former Physicians, treating only of familiar and the most useful things in Diet, such as chiefly nourish and continue Life.
11. Doctor Reason and Doctor Experience Consulted with: or, The Mystery of the Skill of Physick Made Easie. Short, clear, and certain Rules how to Discern, Judge, and Determine, what any usual Disease is, from the Parts of the Body affected; the Causes, Signs, or Symptoms: Collected and Observed from the most approved Authors, and constantly Practised.
12. Chymical Institutions, Describing Nature's Choicest Secrets, in Experienced Chymical Practice: Shewing the several degrees of Progression in the Physical Cabinet of that Art.