The Quack Doctor by Caroline Rance

The Quack Doctor by Caroline Rance

Author:Caroline Rance
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780750951838
Publisher: The History Press
Published: 2013-08-21T16:00:00+00:00

… the mouth ulcerated, the Teeth dropped out, the Hands contracted, and a Complaint was made, of a pricking Pain in them and the Feet, the Body became flushed and spotted, and at last Black, Convulsions succeeded, attended with a slight delirium; and a Mortification destroyed the Face, which proceeding to the Brain, put a period (after indescribable Torments) to the life of the little sufferer, on Sunday, the 1st instant, Twenty-Eight Days after he had taken the Poisonous Lozenges.

The coroner’s verdict was ‘Poisoned by Ching’s Worm Lozenges’ and the details of the case appeared as a warning to parents on a handbill written by the child’s father, also called Thomas Clayton. Clayton’s business as a printer and bookseller put him in a good position to publicise the tragedy by personally delivering leaflets all around his local neighbourhood in Kingston-upon-Hull. In them, he noted that the main Hull papers (the Packet and the Advertiser) had ignored both the death and the coroner’s verdict – probably because they received so much advertising revenue from Ching and Butler.

Signing himself R. Ching, Butler responded with a broadside of his own, attacking the grieving father and threatening to prosecute him for publishing the case. Butler asserted that he ‘cannot calmly surrender the unsullied Reputation, which, for a period of ten years, has distinguished the most invaluable Vermifuge that has ever fallen to the lot of man to discover’.

The cause of death, he said, must have been one of the Worm Lozenges’ inferior imitators, and Clayton’s accusations were nothing but ‘malicious invective’, ‘AN INFAMOUS ASSERTION and ABOMINABLE FALSEHOOD’, which ‘FLAGRANTLY LIBELLED TRUTH’. These handbills were printed by Robert Peck of the Hull Packet – who, like many newspaper printers, was a local stockist of patent remedies and was not about to jeopardise this source of income.

Perhaps Clayton’s grief and campaigning activities led him to neglect his business, or perhaps he was already in financial trouble, but he was declared bankrupt about a month after his son’s death. Although the newspapers had not reported the poisoning, they were quick to advertise the sale of all the Claytons’ property. In a particularly despicable act, Robert Peck allegedly turned up at the sale and boasted to Mrs Clayton that her husband would be severely punished for the libel. Thomas Clayton attributed his wife’s subsequent miscarriage to the distress Peck had caused her.

Clayton wanted to take the precaution of getting a written copy of the coroner’s verdict, but when he went to pick it up, he discovered that the coroner ‘had not time’ to do it. The Deputy Town Clerk was equally unhelpful and although an acquaintance advised Clayton to apply to the Assizes judges, Clayton was unsure how to go about this. Fortunately, Butler was all talk and did not proceed with the prosecution.

By 1805 Clayton had managed to get back in business as a printer and published An Essay on Quackery, and the dreadful consequences arising from taking advertised medicines; with remarks on their Fatal Effects, with an account of a recent death occasioned by a Quack medicine.


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