October 22, 2007

E-mails: Snake-oil & Bicycle Accidents

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 15:43:17 -0700 (PDT)
From:"James Welsch" <_@itwaslost.org>
Subject: Several quotes about snake-oil
To:"Sigal" <__________@gmail.com>

First. I opened at this page at random by accident, from Dr Samuel Johnson's 1755 Dictionary (the quotes are in the original):

móuntebank n.s. [montare in banco, Italian]

1. A doctor that mounts a bench in the market, & boasts of infallible remedies & cures.

I bought an unction of a mountebank
So mortal, that but dip a knife in it,
where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare,
Can save the thing from death. Shakesp. Hamlet.

She, like a mountebank, did wound
And stab herself with doubts profound,
Only to shew with how small pain
The sores of faith are cur'd again. Hudibras, p.i.

But Æschylus, says Horace in some page,
Was the first mountebank that trop the stage. Dryden.

It looks so like a mountebank to boast of infallible cures. Baker's Reflections on Learning.

2. Any boastful & false pretender.

As nimble jugglers, that deceive the eye,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many such like libertines of sin. Shakespeare.

There are mountebanks, & smatterers in state. L'Estrange.

Nothing is so impossible in nature but mountebanks will undertake. Arbuthnot's Hist. of John Bull.

Second. This is an enormously long & almost unreadable excerpt from Ben Jonson's (no relation) Volpone, but worth mining for mentions of strange ailments & some good wheeling-dealing:

A: These turdy-facy-nasty-patie-lousie-farticall rogues, with one poore groats-worth of vnprepar'd antimony, finely wrapt up in seuerall 'Scartoccios, are able, very well, to kill their twenty a weeke, and play; yet these meagre steru'd spirits, who have halfe stopt the organs of their mindes with earthy oppilations, want not their fauourers among your shriuel'd, sallad-eating Artizans: who are ouerioy'd, that they may have their halfeperth of Physick, though it purge them into another world, makes no matter.
F: Excellent! have you heard better Language, Sir?
A: Well, let them go. And Gentlemen, honourable Gentlemen, know, that for this time, our Banque, being thus remou'd from the clamours of the Canaglia, shall be the Scene of pleasure, and delight; For I have nothing to sell, little or nothing to sell:
F: I told you, Sir; his ende.
G: You did so, Sir.
A: I protest, I, and my sixe seruants, are not able to make of this pretious liquor, so fast, as it is fetch'd away from my lodging, by Gentlemen of your Citty; strangers of the Terra-ferma; worshipful Merchants; aye, and Senators too: who, euer since my arriuall, have detained me to their vses, by their splendidous liberalities. And worthily. For what auayles your rich man to have his magazines stuft with Moscadelli, or the purest grape, when his Physitians prescribe him (on paine of death) to drinke nothing but water, cocted with Anise-seeds? O health! health! the blessing of the rich, the riches of the poore! who can buy thee at too deare a rate, since there is no enioying this world, without thee? Be not then so sparing of your purses, honorable Gentlemen, as to abridge the naturall course of life --
G: You see his ende?
F: Aye, is it good?
A: For, when a humide Fluxe, or Catarrhe, by the mutability of ayre, falls from your head, into an arme or shouilder, or any other part; take you a Duckat, or your Cecchine of gold, and applie to the place affected: see, what good effect it can worke. No, no, it is this blessed Vnguento, this rare Extraction, that hath onely power to disperse all malignant humors, that proceede, either of hot, cold, moist or windy causes --
G: I would he had put in dry too.
F: 'pray you, obserue.
A: To fortifie the most indigest, and crude stomacke, aye, were it of one, that (through extreame weakenesse) vomited bloud, applying onely a warme napkin to the place, after the vnction, and fricace; For the Vertigine, in the head, putting but a drop into your nostrills, likewise, behind the eares; a most soueraigne, and approoued remedy. The Mall-caduco, Crampes, Convulsions, Paralysies, Epilepsies, Tremor-cordia, retired-Nerues, ill Vapours of the spleene, Stoppings of the Liuer, the Stone, the Strangury, Hernia ventosa, Iliaca passio; stops a Disenteria, immediatly; easeth the torsion of the small guts: and cures Melancolia hypocondriaca, being taken and applyed, according to my printed Receipt. For, this is the Physitian, this the medicine; this councells, this cures; this giues the direction, this works the effect: and (in summe) both together may be term'd an abstract of the theorick, and practick in the A Esculapian Art. It will cost you eight Crownes. And, Zan Fritada, 'pray thee sing a verse, extempore, in honour of it.
F: How do you like him, Sir?
G: Most strangely, I!
F: Is not his language rare?
G: But Alchimy, I neuer heard the like: or Broughtons bookes.


Had old Hippocrates, or Galen,
(That to their bookes put med'cines all in)
But knowne this secret, they had neuer
(Of which they will be guilty euer)
Beene murderers of so much paper,
Or wasted many a hurtlesse taper:
No Indian drug had ere beene famed,
Tabacco, Sassafras not named;
Ne yet, of Guacum one small stick, Sir,
Nor Raymund Lullies greate Elixir.
Ne, had beene knowne the danish Gonswart.
Or Paracelsus, with his long-sword.

G: All this, yet, will not do, eight Crownes is high.
A: No more; Gentlemen, if I had but time to discourse to you the miraculous effects of this my oyle, surnamed oglio del Scoto, with the count-lesse catalogue of those I have cured of the aforesayd, and many more diseases, the Pattents and Priuiledges of all the Princes, and Common-wealthes of Christendome, or but the depositions of those that appear'd on my part, before the Signiry of the Sanita', and most learned Colledge of Physitians; where I was authorized, upon notice taken of the admirable vertues of my medicaments, and mine own excellency, in matter of rare, and vnknowne secrets, not onely to disperse them publiquely in this famous Citty, but in all the Territories, that happely ioy vnder the gouernment of the most pious and magnificent States of Italy. But may some other gallant fellow say, O, there be diuers, that make profession to have as good, and as experimented receipts, as yours: Indeed, very many have assay'd, like Apes, in imitation of that, which is really, and essentially in me, to make of this oyle; bestow'd great cost in furnaces, stilles, alembekes, continuall fires, and preparation of the ingredients, as indeede there goes to it sixe hundred seuerall Simples, beside, some quantity of humane fat, for the conglutination, which we buy of the Anatomistes; But, when these Practitioners come to the last decoction, blow, blow, puff, puff, and all flies in fumo: ha, ha, ha. Poore wretches! I rather pitty their folly, and indiscretion, then their losse of time, and money; for those may be recouer'd by industry: but to be a Foole borne is a disease incurable. For my selfe, I alwaies from my youth have indeauor'd to get the rarest secrets, and booke them; eyther in exchange, or for money; I spared nor cost, nor labour, where anything was worthy to be learned. And Gentlemen, honourable Gentlemen, I will vndertake (by vertue of Chymicall Art) out of the honourable hat, that couers your head, to extract the foure Elements; that is to say, the Fire, Ayre, Water, and Earth, and returne you your felt, without burne, or staine. For, whilst others have beene at the balloo, I have beene at my booke: and am now past the craggy pathes of study, and come to the flowrie plaines of honour, and reputation.
F: I do assure you, Sir, that is his ayme.
A: But, to our price.
G: And that withall, Sir Poll.
A: You all know (honourable Gentlemen) I neuer valew'd this ampulla, or violl, at lesse then eight Crownes, but for this time, I am content, to be depriu'd of it for sixe; sixe Crownes is the price; and lesse, in curtesie, I know you cannot offer me; take it, or leaue it, howsoeuer, both it, and I am at your seruice. I aske you not, as the valew of the thing, for then I should demand of you a thousand Crownes, so the Cardinalls Montalto, Fernese, the great Duke of Tuscany, my Gossip, with diuers other Princes have giuen me; but I despise money: only to shew my affection to you, honorable Gentlemen, and your illustrous State here, I have neglected the messages of these Princes, mine own offices, fram'd my iourney hither, onely to present you with the fruicts of my trauells. Tune your voyces once more, to the touch of your instruments, and give the honorable assembly some delightfull recreation.
G: What monstrous, and most painefull circumstance Is here, to get some three, or foure Gazets? Some three-pence, in the whole, for that it will come to
A: You that would last long, list to my song, Make no more coyle, but buy of this oyle. Would you be euer faire? and yong? Stout of teeth? and strong of tongue? Tart of palat? quick of eare? Sharpe of sight? of nostrill cleare? Moist of hand? and light of foot? (Or I will come neerer to it) Would you liue free from all diseases? Do the act, your mistres pleases; Yet fright all aches from your bones? Here is a med'cine, for the nones.

Third. The lyrics to Sondheim's Miracle Elixir, from Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Note that Jonson also rhymed "elixir" with "stick, sir".

Ladies and gentlemen!
May I have your attention, perlese!
(Beats Drum)
Do you wake every morning in shame and despair
to discover your pillow is covered with hair
Wot ought to be there?

Well, ladies and gentlemen,
From now on you can waken at ease.
You need never again have a worry or care,
I will show you a miracle, marvelous, rare.
Gentleman, you are about to see something
that rose from the dead!

On the top of my head
Scarcley a month ago, gentlemen,
I was struck with a 'orrible
Dermatalogic disease.
Though the finest physicians in London were called,
I awakened one morning amazed and appalled
To discover with dread that my head was bald
As a novice's knees.
I was dying of shame
Till a gentleman came,
An illustrious barber, Pirelli by name.
He gave me a liquid as precious as gold,
I rubbed it in daily like wot I was told,
And behold!
(Takes off cap dramatically, to reveal hair down to his shoulders.)
Only thirty days old!

Twas Pirelli's
Magical Elixir,
That's wot did the trick, sir,
True, sir, true.
Was it quick sir?
Did it in a tick, sir,
Just like an elixir
Ought to do!

How about a bottle, mister?
Only costs a penny garanteed.

Crowd:(at the same time)

1st man: Penny buys a bottle, I don't know...
2nd man: You don't need...
1st man: Ah, let's go!

Tobias (to third man): Go ahead and tug, sir.
3rd man: Penny for a bottle, is it?
Tobias: Go ahead, sir, harder...

Does Pirelli's
Stimulate the growth, sir?
You can have my oath, sir,
'Tis unique.

Rub a minute
Stimulatin', i'n' it?
Soon you'll have to thin it
Once a week!

Penny buys a bottle, garanteed!


Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 14:36:52 -0700 (PDT)
From:"James Welsch"
Subject: Well done, man.
To:"James Eliot Quill" <____________@gmail.com>

James James,

It should interest you, that at the precise moment I received a text message from you with the words "fuck yeah", Liam took a spectacular fall on his bicycle, biking drunk thru the dark streets of North Oakland, he mistook a curb for a driveway, scraping up his elbow, breaking his glasses, & throwing his chain into the wheel. We had been at the Hotel Bar, Henry's, a clean place where I go to act like Holden Caulfield, thinking everyone else is a phoney, & racking up a hilarious tab. Like last night, we racked up a hilarious tab, ordering things like marinated olives, digestif liquers, & something called a "pomtini", all in celebration of the Red Sox, I dare say, for whom I believe I am something of a lucky charm (remember the last American League Championship Series I watched, was, that is correct, in 2004). God speed! Well, Wednesday, more should happen, presuming I'm not tied up at the opera, but, care to watch all or part of this so-called World Series in the Bay Area with us? I hope you're healthy.

James James

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