XXIX

The consumptive remedy⁠—​E. Andrews, M.D.⁠—Born without birthrights⁠—​Hasheesh candy⁠—​Roback the Great⁠—​A conjurer opposed to lying.

There is a fellow in Williamsburg who calls himself a clergyman, and sells a “consumptive remedy,” by which I suppose he means a remedy for consumption. It is a mere slop corked in a vial; but there are a good many people who are silly enough to buy it of him. A certain gentleman, during last November, earnestly sought an interview with this reverend brother in the interests of humanity, but he was as inaccessible as a chipmunk in a stone fence. The gentleman wrote a polite note to the knave asking about prices, and received a printed circular in return, stating in an affecting manner the good man’s grief at having to raise his price in consequence of the cost of gold “with which I am obliged to buy my medicines” saith he, “in Paris.” This was both sad and unsatisfactory; and the gentleman went over to Williamsburg to seek an interview and find out all about the prices. He reached the abode of the man of piety, but, strange to relate, he wasn’t at home.

Gentleman waited.

Reverend brother kept on not being at home. When gentleman had waited to his entire satisfaction he came back.

It is understood it is practically out of the question to see the reverend brother. Perhaps he is so modest and shy that he will not encounter the clamorous gratitude which would obstruct his progress through the streets, from the millions saved by his consumptive remedy. It is a pity that the reverend man cannot enjoy the still more complete seclusion by which the state of New York testifies its appreciation of unobtrusive and retiring virtues like his, in the salubrious and quiet town of Sing Sing.

A quack in an inland city, who calls himself E. Andrews, M.D., prints a “semi-occasional” document in the form of a periodical, of which a copy is lying before me. It is an awful hodgepodge of perfect nonsense and vulgar rascality. He calls it “The Good Samaritan and Domestic Physician,” and this number is called “volume twenty.” Only think what a great man we have among us⁠—unless the Doctor himself is mistaken. He says: “I will here state that I have been favored by nature and Providence in gaining access to stores of information that has fell to the lot of but very few persons heretofore, during the past history of mankind.” Evidently these “stores” were so vast that the great doctor’s brain was stuffed too full to have room left for English Grammar. Shortly, the Doctor thus bursts forth again with some views having their own merits, but not such as concern the healing art very directly: “The automaton powers of machinery”⁠—there’s a new style of machinery, you observe⁠—“must be made to work for, instead of as now, against mankind; the Land of all nations must be made free to Actual Settlers in limited quantities. No one must be born without his birthright being born with him.” The italics, etc., are the Doctor’s. What an awful thought is this of being born without any birthright, or, as the Doctor leaves us to suppose possible, having one’s birthright born first, and dodging about the world like a stray canary-bird, while the unhappy and belated owner tries in vain to put salt on its tail and catch it!

Well, this wiseacre, after his portentous introduction, fills the rest of his sixteen loosely printed double-columned octavo pages with a farrago of the most indescribable character, made up of brags, lies, promises, forged recommendations and letters, boasts of systematic charity, funny scraps of stuff in the form of little disquisitions, advertisements of remedies, hair-oils, cosmetics, liquors, groceries, thistle-killers, anti-bug mixtures, recipes for soap, ink, honey, and the Old Harry only knows what. The fellow gives a list of seventy-one specific diseases for which his Hasheesh Candy is a sure cure, and he adds that it is also a sure cure for all diseases of the liver, brain, throat, stomach, ear, and other internal disorders; also for “all long standing diseases”⁠—whatever that means!⁠—and for insanity! In this monstrous list are jumbled together the most incongruous troubles. “Bleeding at the nose, and abortions;” “worms, fits, poisons and cramps.” And the impudent liar quotes General Grant, General Mitchell, the Rebel General Lee, General McClellan, and Doctor Mott of this city, all shouting in chorus the praises of the Hasheesh Candy! Next comes the “Secret of Beauty,” a “preparation of Turkish Roses;” then alot of forged references, and an assertion that the Doctor gives to the poor five thousand pounds of bread every winter; then some fearful denunciations of the regular doctors.

But⁠—as the auctioneers say⁠—“I can’t dwell.” I will only add that the real villainy of this fellow only appears here and there, where he advertises the means of ruining innocence, or of indulging with impunity in the foulest vices. He will sell for $3.30, the “Mystic Weird Ring.” In a chapter of infamous blatherumskite about this ring he says: “The wearer can drive from, or draw to him, anyone, and for any purpose whatever.” I need not explain what this scoundrel means. He also will sell the professed means of robbery and swindling; saying that he is prepared to show how to remove papers, wills, titles, notes, etc., from one place to another “by invisible means.” It is a wonder that the Bank of Commerce can keep any securities in its vaults⁠—of course!

But enough of this degraded panderer to crime and folly. He is beneath notice, so far as he himself concerned; I devote the space to him, because it is well worth while to understand how base an imposture can draw a steady revenue from a nation boasting so much culture and intelligence as ours. It is also worth considering whether the authorities must not be remiss, who permit such odious deceptions to be constantly perpetrated upon the public.

I ought here to give a paragraph to the great C. W. Roback, one of whose Astrological Almanacs is before me. This erudite production is embellished in front with a picture of the doctor and his six brothers⁠—for he is the seventh son of a seventh son. The six elder brethren⁠—nice enough boys⁠—stand submissively around their gigantic and bearded junior, reaching only to his waist, and gazing up at him with reverence, as the sheaves of Joseph’s brethren worshipped his sheaf in his dream. At the end is a picture of Magnus Roback, the grandfather of C. W., a bullheaded, ugly old Dutchman, with a globe and compasses. This picture, by the way, is in fact a cheap likeness of the old discoverers or geographers. Within the book we find Gustavus Roback, the father of C. W., for whom is used a cut of Jupiter⁠—or some other heathen god⁠—half-naked, astraddle of an eagle, with a hook in one hand and a quadrant in the other; which is very much like the picture by one of the “Old Masters” of Abraham about to offer up Isaac, and taking a long aim at the poor boy with a flintlock horse-pistol. Doctor Roback is good enough to tell us where his brothers are: “One, a high officer in the Empire of China, another a Catholic Bishop in the city of Rome,” and so on. There is also a cut of his sister, whom he cured of consumption. She is represented “talking to her bird, after the fashion of her country, when a maiden is unexpectedly rescued from the jaws of death!”

Roback cures all sorts of diseases, discovers stolen property, insures children a marriage, and so on, all by means of “conjurations.” He also casts nativities and foretells future events; and he shows in full how Bernadotte, Louis Philippe, and Napoleon Bonaparte either did well or would have done well by following his advice. The chief peculiarity of this impostor is, that he really avoids direct pandering to vice and crime, and even makes it a specialty to cure drunkenness and⁠—of all things in the world⁠—lying! On this point Roback gives in full the certificate of Mrs. Abigail Morgan, whose daughter Amanda “was sorely given to fibbing, in so much that she would rather lie than speak the truth.” And the delighted mother certifies that our friend and wizard “so changed the nature of the girl that, to the best of our knowledge and belief, she has never spoken anything but the truth since.”

There is a conjurer “as is a conjurer.”

What an uproar the incantation of the great Roback would make, if set fairly to work among the politicians, for instance! But after all, on second thoughts, what a horrible mass of abominations would they lay bare in telling the truth about each other all round! No, no⁠—it won’t do to have the truth coming out, in politics at any rate! Away with Roback! I will not give him another word⁠—not a single chance⁠—not even to explain his great power over what he calls “Fits! Fits! Fits! Fits! Fits!”