John Wilmot:
Earl of Rochester & Alexander Bendo

from the 1864 edition of the Memoirs of the Count de Grammont

The king did not use to let Lord Rochester remain so long in exile: he grew weary of it, and being displeased that he was forgotten, he posted up to London to wait till it might be his majesty's pleasure to recall him.

He first took up his habitation in the city, among the capital tradesmen and rich merchants, where politeness indeed is not so much cultivated as at court; but where pleasure, luxury, and abundance reign with less confusion, and more sincerity. His first design was only to be initiated into the mysteries of those fortunate and happy inhabitants; that is to say, by changing his name and dress, to gain admittance to their feasts and entertainments; and, as occasion offered, to those of their loving spouses: as he was able to adapt himself to all capacities and humours, he soon deeply insinuated himself into the esteem of the substantial wealthy aldermen, and into the affections of their more delicate, magnificent, and tender ladies: he made one in all their feasts, and at all their assemblies; and, whilst in the company of the husbands he declaimed against the faults and mistakes of government, he joined their wives in railing against the profligacy of the court ladies, and in inveighing against the king's mistresses: he agreed with them, that the industrious poor were to pay for these cursed extravagances; that the city beauties were not inferior to those of the other end of the town, and yet a sober husband in this quarter of the town was satisfied with one wife; after which, to out-do their murmurings, he said, that he wondered Whitehall was riot yet consumed by fire from heaven, since such rakes as Rochester, Killegrew, and Sidney were suffered there, who had the impudence to assert, that all the married men in the city were cuckolds, and all their wives painted. This conduct endeared him so much to the cits, and made him so welcome at their clubs, that at last he grew sick of their cramming and endless invitations.

But, instead of approaching nearer the court, he retreated into one of the most obscure corners of the city; where, again changing both his name and his dress, in order to act a new part, he caused bills to be dispersed, giving notice, of "The recent arrival of a famous German doctor, who, by long application and experience, had found out wonderful secrets, and infallible remedies."142 His secrets consisted in knowing what was past, and foretelling what was to come, by the assistance of astrology: and the virtue of his remedies principally consisted in giving present relief to unfortunate young women in all manner of diseases, and all kinds of accidents incident to the fair sex, either from too unbounded charity to their neighbours, or too great indulgence to themselves.

His first practice being confined to his neighbourhood, was not very considerable; but his reputation soon extending to the other end of the town, there presently flocked to him the women attending on the court, next, the chambermaids of ladies of quality, who, upon the wonders they related concerning the German doctor, were soon followed by some of their mistresses....

NOTE 142, Page 255.
The recent arrival of a famous German doctor.

Bishop Burnet confirms this account. -- "Being under an unlucky accident, which obliged him to keep out of the way, he disguised himself so, that his nearest friends could not have known him, and set up in Tower-street for an Italian mountebank, where he practised physic for some weeks, not without success. In his latter years he read books of history more. He took pleasure to disguise himself as a porter, or as a beggar; sometimes to follow some mean amours, which, for the variety of them, he affected. At other times, merely for diversion, he would go about in odd shapes; in which he acted his part so naturally, that even those who were in the secret, and saw him in these shapes, could perceive nothing by which he might be discovered." -- Burnet's Life of Rochester, ed. 1774, p. 14.

Lord Rochester's speech when he exhibited as a mountebank on Tower Hill, is so remarkable a document, that it seems well worthy of a place here.

Gentlemen, Ladies, and others,
Whether of
Wisheth all Health and Prosperity.

Whereas this famed metropolis of England (and were the endeavours of its worthy inhabitants equal to their power, merit, and virtue, I should not stick to denounce it, in a short time, the metropolis of the whole world); whereas, I say, this city (as most great ones are) has ever been infested with a numerous company of such whose arrogant confidence, backing their ignorance, has enabled them to impose on the people either premeditated cheats, or at best the palpable dull and empty mistakes of their self-deluded imagination, in physic, chymical and Galenic; in astrology, physiognomy, palmistry, mathematics, alchimy, and even in government itself; the last of which I will not propose to discourse of, or meddle at all in, since it in no way belongs to my trade or vocation, as the rest do; which (thanks to my God) I find much more safe, I think equally honest, and therefore more profitable.

But as to all the former, they have been so erroneously practis'd by many unlearned wretches, whom poverty and neediness for the most part (if not the restless itch of deceiving) has forc'd to straggle and wander in unknown parts, that even the professions themselves, though originally the products of the most learned and wise men's laborious studies and experience, and by them left a wealthy and glorious inheritance for ages to come, seem by this bastard race of quacks and cheats to have been run out of all wisdom, learning, perspicuousness, and truth, with which they were so plentifully stocked; and now run into a repute of mere mists, imaginations, errors, and deceits, such as in the management of these idle professors indeed they were.

You will therefore (I hope) gentlemen, ladies, and others, deem it but just, that I who for some years have with all faithfulness and assiduity courted these arts, and received such signal favours from them, that they have admitted me to the happy and full enjoyment of themselves, and trusted me with their greatest secrets, should with an earnestness and concern more than ordinary, take their parts against those impudent fops, whose saucy, impertinent addresses and pretensions have brought such a scandal upon their most immaculate honours and reputations.

Besides, I hope you will not think I could be so imprudent, that if I had intended any such foul play myself, I would have given you so fair warning by my severe observations upon others, Qui alterum incusant probri, ipsum se intueri oportet, Plaut. However, gentlemen, in a world like this, (where virtue is so exactly counterfeited, and hypocrisy so generally taken notice of, that every one, armed with suspicion, stands upon his guard against it) 'twill be very hard for a stranger especially to escape censure. All I shall say for myself on this score is this, if I appear to any one like a counterfeit, even for the sake of that chiefly ought I to be construed a true man, who is the counterfeit's example, his original, and that which he employs his industry and pains to imitate and copy. Is it therefore my fault if the cheat by his wits and endeavours makes himself so like me, that consequently I cannot avoid resembling of him? Consider, pray, the valiant and the coward, the wealthy merchant and the bankrupt, the politician and the fool; they are the same in many things, and differ in but one alone. The valiant man holds up his head, looks confidently round about him, wears a sword, courts a lord's wife, and owns it; so does the coward: one only point of honour, and that's courage (which like false metal, one only trial can discover) makes the distinction.

The bankrupt walks the exchange, buys, bargains, draws bills, and accepts them with the richest, whilst paper and credit are current coin: that which makes the difference is real cash; a great defect indeed, and yet but one, and that the last found out, and still till then the least perceived.

Now for the politician, he is a grave, deliberating, close, prying man: Pray are there not grave, deliberating, close, prying fools? If then the difference betwixt all these (though infinite in effect) be so nice in all appearance, will you expect it should be otherwise betwixt the false physician, astrologer, &c., and the true? The first calls himself learned doctor, sends forth his bills, gives physic and counsel, tells and foretells; the other is bound to do just as much: 'tis only your experience must distinguish betwixt them, to which I willingly submit myself: I'll only say something to the honour of the Mountebank, in case you discover me to be one.

Reflect a little what kind of creature 'tis, he is one then who is fain to supply some higher ability he pretends to, with craft, he draws great companies to him by undertaking strange things which can never be effected. The politician (by his example no doubt) finding how the people are taken with specious, miraculous, impossibilities, plays the same game; protests, declares, promises I know not what things, which he's sure can ne'er be brought about. The people believe, are deluded and pleased; the expectation of a future good which shall never befall them draws their eyes off a present evil. Thus are they kept and establish'd in subjection, peace, and obedience; he in greatness, wealth, and power. So you see the politician is, and must be a mountebank in state affairs; and the mountebank no doubt, if he thrives, is an errant politician in physic.

But that I may not prove too tedious, I will proceed faithfully to inform you, what are the things in which I pretend chiefly at this time to serve my country.

First, I will (by the leave of God) perfectly cure that Labes Britannica, or grand English disease, the scurvy; and that with such ease to my patient, that he shall not be sensible of the least inconvenience whilst I steal his distemper from him; I know there are many, who treat this disease with mercury, antimony, spirits, and salts, being dangerous remedies, in which I shall meddle very little, and with great caution, but by more secure, gentle, and less fallible medicines, together with the observation of some few rules in diet, perfectly cure the patient, having freed him from all the symptoms, as looseness of the teeth, scorbutick spots, want of appetite, pains and lassitude in the limbs and joints, especially the legs. And to say truth, there are few distempers in this nation that are not, or at least proceed not originally from the scurvy; which were it well rooted out (as I make no question to do it from all those who shall come into my hands) there would not be heard of so many gouts, aches, dropsies, and consumptions; nay, even those thick and slimy humours which generate stones in the kidneys and bladder, are for the most part offsprings of the scurvy. It would prove tedious to set down all its malignant race; but those who address themselves here, shall be still informed by me in the nature of their distempers, and the grounds I proceed upon to their cure: so will all reasonable people be satisfied that I treat them with care, honesty, and understanding; for I am not of their opinion who endeavour to render their vocations rather mysterious, than useful and satisfactory.

I will not here make a catalogue of diseases and distempers; it behoves a physician I am sure to understand them all; but if any come to me (as I think there are very few that have escap'd my practice) I shall not be ashamed to own to my patient, where I find myself to seek, and at least he shall be secure with me from having experiments tried upon him; a privilege he can never hope to enjoy, either in the hands of the grand doctors of the court and town, or in those of the lesser quacks and mountebanks.

It is fit though that I assure you of great secrecy as well as care in diseases, where it is requisite, whether venereal or others, as some peculiar to women, the green sickness, weaknesses, inflammations, or obstructions in the stomach, reins, liver, spleen, &c. (for I would put no word in my bill that bears any unclean sound; it is enough that I make myself understood; I have seen physician's bills as bawdy as Aretine's Dialogues, which no man that walks warily before God can approve of) but I cure all suffocations in those parts producing fits of the mother, convulsions, nocturnal inquietudes, and other strange accidents not fit to be set down here, persuading young women very often that their hearts are like to break for love, when God knows the distemper lies far enough from that place.

Likewise barrenness (proceeding from any accidental cause, as it often falls out, and no natural defect; for nature is easily assisted, difficultly restored, but impossible to be made more perfect by Man than God himself had at first created and bestowed it). Cures of this kind I have done signal and many, for the which I doubt not but I have the good wishes and hearty prayers of many families, who had else pin'd out their days under the deplorable and reproachful misfortunes of barren wombs, leaving plentiful estates and possessions to be inherited by strangers.

As to astrological predictions, physiognomy, divination by dreams, and otherwise (palmistry I have not faith in, because there can be no reason alleged for it) my own experience has convinc'd me more of their considerable effects, and marvellous operations, chiefly in the directions of future proceedings, to the avoiding of dangers that threaten, and laying hold of advantages that might offer themselves

I say, my own practice has convinc'd me more than all the sage and wise writings extant of those matters; for I might say this for myself (did it not look like ostentation) that I have very seldom failed in my predictions, and often been very serviceable in my advice. How far I am capable in this way I am sure is not fit to be delivered in print: those who have no opinion of the truth of this art, will not I suppose come to me about it; such as have, I make no question of giving them ample satisfaction.

Nor will I be ashamed to set down here my willingness to practise rare secrets (though somewhat collateral to my profession), for the help, conservation, and augmentation of beauty and comeliness; a thing created at first by God, chiefly for the glory of his own name, and then for the better establishment of mutual love between man and woman; for when God had bestowed on man the power of strength and wisdom, and thereby rendered woman liable to the subjection of his absolute will, it seemed but requisite that she should be endued likewise in recompense, with some quality that might beget in him admiration of her, and so enforce his tenderness and love.

The knowledge of these secrets I gathered in my travels abroad (where I have spent my time ever since I was fifteen years old to this my nine and twentieth year) in France and Italy. Those that have travelled in Italy will tell you to what a miracle Art does there assist Nature in the preservation of beauty; how women of forty bear the same countenance with those of fifteen: ages are no ways there distinguished by faces; whereas here in England look a horse in the mouth, and a woman in the face, you presently know both their ages to a year. I will therefore give you such remedies, that without destroying your complexion (as most of your paints and daubings do) shall render them perfectly fair, clearing and preserving them from all spots, freckles, heats, and pimples, nay, marks of the small-pox, or any other accidental ones, so the face be not seam'd or scarr'd.

I will also cleanse and preserve your teeth white and round as pearls, fastening them that are loose: your gums shall be kept entire, and red as coral; your lips of the same colour, and soft as you could wish your lawful kisses.

I will likewise administer that which shall cure the worst breath, provided the lungs be not totally perished and imposthumated; as also certain and infallible remedies for those whose breaths are yet untainted, so that nothing but either a very long sickness or old age itself shall ever be able to spoil them.

I will, besides (if it be desired) take away from their fatness who have overmuch, and add flesh to those that want it, without the least detriment to their constitutions.

Now should Galen himself look out of his grave, and tell me these were baubles below the profession of a physician, I would boldly answer him, that I take more glory in preserving God's image, in its unblemished beauty upon one good face, than I should do in patching up all the decay'd carcasses in the world.

They that will do me the favour to come to me, shall be sure from three of the clock in the afternoon till eight at night at my lodgings in Tower-street, next door to the sign of the Black Swan, at a goldsmith's house to find

Their humble servant,             

Memoirs of Count Grammont