Merret - A short view of the frauds and abuses committed by apothecaries/Chapter 2
REader, There intervening so small a space from the publication of the first Edition of these Papers to this second; I thought to have added nothing to it, but to have put it out only more correct, as the Title intimates; but since some Sheets were printed off, I have had the opportunity to be informed of some exceptions taken to them, which being but few, I shall give the Objectors full satisfaction in. Though one answer might serve for all; viz. that an Apothecary in the presence of two Physicians, said, that he had told me of all these Cheats, and indeed they are so common, that whosoever shall be conversant with them, may observe most of these to be a great part of their discourse. The First exception against Myrtle-leafs, that they were not shewed the Censors for Sena, a Binder for a Purger; the time I have forgot; the Censors then were, Sir George Ent, Dr. Goddard, Dr. King, and my Self; the places, Tut-hill-street, and some Shops in King-street; Mr. Shellberry being then Master of the Company. Secondly, As for Mushrooms rubbed over with Chalk for Agaric; this was found by the Censors in the Old-Baily, at the Shop of one now dead, and therefore I shall say no further of it, it being taken notice of by Mr. Evelyn, as is intimated before. p.8. A Third is Diascordium made of Honey and Bole-Armeniac, this was discovered in a Shop at the end of Drury-lane near Holborn, concluded to be so by Sir George Ent, My self, and Mr. Richardson then Master of the Company, and the rest of the Censors and Wardens, easily to be remembred, and was by them taken away to their Hall; a pound whereof I had, and by dissolution found it to be no otherwise; what the Apothecaries did with the large Pot of the remainder I know not. Besides these, I have heard no exception to the whole concerning frauds.
Now since the Cheaters with the Cheatees, most insist on the objection of Poyson; I add to what hath been formerly said, that Poysons are not necessarily to be given in Medicines alone, but may be given in Broaths, Beer, or any other thing taken into the Body, and that without the consultation or knowledg of any Physician, and surely if any one had a mind to Poyson his Relations (an Action abominable to the English Nation) he would rather Act privately himself, having many opportunities offered to him, rather then by communicating it to others, making himself obnoxious to their discovery. But if he should communicate to others, 'tis more probable he would communicate it to meaner, and more Mercenary persons, as Apothecaries and Nurses, at a smaller rate and with more security, then reveal such secrets to Physicians, Men of Honour, and Honesty. Furthermore, if any mans life be suspect to be taken away with Poyson, and by opening the body it should appear so (and without which it cannot well appear) the Physician is doubtless as lyable to the Law as any other person whatsoever. So that the Patient hath as much moral security from this mischief, as possibly can be had, or wished in humane affairs. Nay suppose the Physician might be so corrupted (as to take away his Patients life) he might effect it without the least suspition; either by neglecting, or omitting what was necessary, or by giving him unproper Medicines., for which he could be accused of ignorance or errour only; besides, if he had a mind to poyson, he as well as others, assistants of Visitors, might do it securely enough, by conveying into a singular Cordial, or any Medicine made by the Shops, and often taken by the Patient before with good success, a mortal dose without any knowledg or surmise of any such horrid practice. Add hereunto what an able Chirurgeon suggested, that Apothecaries taking upon them the wrapping up, and Embalming of Bodies (whereby they gain more money then by several years practice upon them; for their embalming amounts to very great sums) may upon better reason be suspected of poysoning then any other persons whatsoever conversant among the sick; since both a particular interest and convenience of concealing may induce them to it. Lastly, did this Objection carry any weight in it, then neither Physicians, Chirurgeons, Apothecaries, Nurses, nor Friends, might administer to the sick; because all these, as well as Physicians, may clandestinely poyfon their Relations. And therefore that an Objection should be raised by such persons that have more opportunities and advantage (in a thing never proved to be done, because 'tis possible only) to hinder so manifest and publick a profit as hath been proved; appears to be very weak and absurd.
And having done with the Objections made to others, and to my self also by some of the Company, with whom I have conversed, who huff'd exceedingly at my first discourse with them, but departed (seemingly at least) well satisfied, I am sure fully and without reply answered, and with addition of many other Cheats besides, which I shall not here mention for the reasons above specified: I shall here transcribe one gratulatory Letter amongst many sent me by a Divine well known in Physic, being very comprehensive of most I have said, to the end the Universities and all learned men may see what is like to become of one of the three of their noble professions: The words of the Letter are these.
"Your design all ingenious persons approve highly, to whom I have communicated it. 'Tis frequent with a Master Apothecary that hath served but 2, or 3 years, nay some scarce one, to take Apprentices for as little, or less time, with a little more money then ordinarily; and presently they assume the Title of Doctors, though they understand no more then only to write to a whole-sale Apothecary in your City. And truly their couzenages here in the Country do exceed those in the City. For I have known 2s. 6d. taken for a little Plaster of Galbanum, and it is usual to make one pectoral Syrup serve for all; as having occasion to enquire for Syrup of Jujubs, one of them ingenuously confessed (not knowing what Jujubs were) that he used one pectoral Syrup for all, a little varying the colour sometimes, and this a peculiar receipt of his own, something differing from any in the Dispensatory.
As for their opposition also in the Country, take this one Example. An eminent Physician of Gloucester by reason of the Apothecaries Frauds, &c. betook himself to make his own Medicines, taking for his Servant one that was not a Freeman of the said City. Who in his Masters absence, and contrary to his command, sold to an Apothecary a Medicine not to be had, or at least pretended not to be had in the Town, for a most urgent and necessary use; whereupon the Apothecaries conspiring together, exhibited a complaint to the Mayor and Court of Aldermen, requiring of them, that the said Physician (who was a Freeman, and had lately born the Office of Mayor) might be dis-franchised. Which being not granted them, they set the whole City into such disorder, that they refused to attend the Mayor on a Solemn day (as their Custom is, and are bound to do) with their Flags from their Town-Hall to the Church, which the prudence of the Magistrates for the present qualified. This relation I had from the then Mayor my Kinsman, in the presence of a London Apothecary.
Next as to the Lyes and Scandals of my self, I shall take notice only of those that concern practice (the rest being but generally false and non-sensical revilings.) One is, that they most untruly entitle me to have been Physician to the Lady Anderson, and many others which I never saw or heard of; and that I soon dispatched them. Another wherewith they make great noise, is, of one Mr. Staples in Covent-Garden, whom they say also I dispatched in few days. The true relation whereof was this. An able Physician of the College had him in hand for the Jaundice, about two Months before I was called, whereupon we consulted and writ a note to the Apothecary; a week after the consultation I was sent for, and desired to take care of him alone; he was then, besides the Jaundice, troubled with continual Torments in his Bowels, which were as hard as a Board (as they say) his Stomach gone, his nights restless, a vehement Cough joyned with a Hectick Fever, having long before had an ill Habit of Body. In this Case I found him, and in a Months time or thereabouts, I cured his Jaundice, relieved his Torments, removed the hardness of his Bowels, mitigated his Cough, but the Hectick Fever continuing he declined; at length another Physician was called in, who can witness the truth of what was done, and upon the whole we had good reason to think his Liver to be Apostemated. After which consultation he had no more of me, telling me he would rely on Kitchin Physic, and after that I never saw him. Now this being the only relation I have heard in this kind, I have been the larger to recite it, that thereby the Reader may take an estimate of their dealing with me in the like reports. The like or worse, some of them have laid of other Physicians, which perhaps hereafter shall be more fully related with all the Circumstances.
As for their malicious anger, and disadvantageous to themselves, take this one example; I having preferred a Plaster for the Head, an Apothecary would not make it, because prescribed by me; and I have been informed that many of them agreed they would make nothing for such Physicians as made their own Medicines; a poor and pitiful revenge, to their own loss and discredit.
Another Scandal is, the fewness of my Medicines, 'Tis true my Closet is not open to every bodies Eye, nor have I so many and large Pots and Glasses, or fill'd with as good as nothing, or the same Medicine, in several with different Titles, neither are any of mine guilded to make a shew with; yet I dare offer to view with the bed of their Shops, for number of good and really useful Medicines fit to answer presently any Physicians intentions, for internal remedies. And this will be attested by some of my learned Collegues, who have seen and perused them. Whereas the Shops contain only some general Medicines, whereof few single Physicians make use of one quarter in their practice, and upon most particular cases are compell'd to prescribe what is not readily dispensed in the Shops. Others insinuate my seldom change of Medicines. To which I answer, that where all circumstances are the same, and a good success follows; I neither do, nor will much vary, the easiest thing in the World to be done, both to colour and tast. For such changes (necessary to be used in Shop-practice) without manifest reason, clog a Patients Purse and Stomach, may not suit with the Patients Disease nor Constitution. And doubtless every Physician writes at first what he conceives most fit, and proper in the Case proposed; and if this agrees fully to his expectation, runs some hazard in the alteration, which he is necessitated to do in the Shop-way, for many reasons before-mentioned. Besides, who scruples to take the Medicinal Waters of Epsom, Barnet, and Tunbridge, many weeks together? or who refuseth a constant unalter'd Diet-Drink for some Months, or Years together? And do not Apothecaries in all Diseases of the Lungs, fly to their pectoral decoction for all persons, and for the same person at all times, unless perhaps with the addition of a little China to it?
Some Patients of the middle rank have by these and such like Artifices been drawn from me, but have soon returned, being undeceived by the fulsomeness, charge, and the non-success of the Shops.
Now these things I have here published to this end alone, that both Physician and Patient may take notice of them; the former to neglect and slight such poor Calumnies, and the other to avoid the inconveniencies thence arising.
The care I had not to injure any particular person, by naming him in my first Edition, or this (although I had so many witnesses of credit, as appears by the Postscript, to justifie any thing they can object against) makes me hope they will leave off their personal animosities, or redress their Crimes, their Vanity of threatning me with 20000l. Actions, and affrighting my publishing this, together with my further proceedings, by their intended assaults and batterie; which make them appear so ridiculous, that I smile at the first, and pardon the last, wishing them to consider seriously how the expectation some have of what they can say for themselves, together with the necessity that obliges them to it (if possible) were enough one would think, besides their many large brags of a speedy and full answer (which they have a long time buzzed about the Town as a present remedy in this exigence) this I say were enough to make any man conclude them guilty, but 'tis hoped this Edition will either work in them an amendment, or bury their confident presumptions, leaving no man a belief of their innocency. If their promised answer be any thing else but Libelling, or a Ballad without rhime or reason, stuft with falsities and revilings, such as was only given to Dr. Coxe's Book; I shall return it a speedy and full answer, and with an addition of far greater Frauds and Abuses, if they therein desire it.
Feb. 20 69.
PAg. 35.l.6. read Physician, pag. 67.l.12. read then to trust.