A Bad Doctor

John Aubrey is one of the great English writers and left a huge amount of diaries which range over a wide range of topics. They are chatty, he often qualifies what he writes by citing he’s not sure of this, or that someone told him, so provides insight into his life and thinking. This is from his account of Dr William Butler (1535-1618); some of his treatments:

The doctor lying at the Savoy in London, next the water side, where was a balcony looked into the Thames, a patient came to him that was grievously tormented with an ague. the doctor orders a boat to be in readiness under his window, and discoursed with the patient (a gentleman) in the balcony, when on  signal given, 2 or 3 lusty fellows came behind the gentleman and threw him a matter of 20 feet into the Thames. This surprise absolutely cured him.

A gentleman with a red,ugly, pimpled face came to him for a cure. Said the doctor, ‘I must hang you.’ So presently he had a device made ready to hang hm from a beam in the room; and when he was even almost dead, he cuts the veins that fed these pimples, and let out the black ugly blood, and cured him.

Another time one came to him for the cure of a cancer.(or ulcer) in the bowels. Said the doctor, ‘Can ye shit?’ ‘Yes’, said the patient. So the doctor ordered a basin for him to shit, and when he had sone so the doctor ordered him to eat it up. This did the cure

Don’t try any of this at home

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