Robert Boyle (1627-91): Work-diary XXVI (Accounts of cures performed by Valentine Greatrakes, 1666)

Content: Accounts of cures performed by Valentine Greatrakes during his visit to England in 1666, some witnessed by Boyle himself and some recounted to him by those healed.

General Information


Work-diary entries

/BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 52r/

[Authorial heading]:
April the 6th 1666

Entry 1: Editorial notes:

This day being present when Mr G. stroakd a Tincker that Dr Fairecloth & I had before examind, & who had been lame & gone upon Crutches between 7 & 8 year, having been thrice entertaind in St. Bartholomews hospital without at last receiving any amendment, I was informd by the patient, that he had been once stroackd before on Tuesday last with most suddaine & wonderfull releife, & that yet his paines though incomparably ['i' altered from 'u'] lesse then before being not quite removd he came to be stroakd againe, which I having desird that he might be, Mr G. began to stroak his shoulder, where the patient complaind of a paine, which by his stroacking being as the Tincker sayd presently removd unto his Elbow & thence <toward> [ replacing 'into' deleted] his ['Wrest' deleted] hand, I tooke Mr G.'s Glove, ['&' deleted] which was thick & sought, & turning the inside outward stroakd therewith the <affected> Arme, & (as I ghesse) within a minute of an hower drove the paine as the Tincker told me into his wrest where he sayd it much afflicted him, then stroaking that part also with the Glove, he told me felt a sharp paine in the middle joynts of his fingers, ['in' deleted] & stroaking those parts also he sayd he felt it exceding uneasy ['s' inserted] under his Nailes, which being likewise stroakd he sayd his paine was quite gone from his shoulder, arme, & hand


Entry 2: Editorial notes:

Mr. G. having also stroakd his hip for an moderate Cyatica drove as the Tincker sayd a a violent paine into the back part of his the theigh ['eigh' altered from 'ye'] , whence Mr G. letting me have the same glove againe, I expelld it into his knee, where he sayd t'was very violent, thence he sayd he felt /BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 52v/ it skip into his sheenes, & thence by the same way I ['cha' deleted] chasd it into his ankle & Instep, ['a' deleted] where he complaind that it was very grevious whence having stroakd it to the roots of his Toes he said it was the [altered from 'they'] more tormenting ['r' inserted] then ever & by his looks & moanes seemd [altered from 'sh'] be much disorderd, & when by stroaking I drove ['s' at end of word deleted] the paine (as he sayd) toward the extreme parts of his Toes he appeard to bee more tormenteed then ever, & expressd an Impatience that at my delaying to stroake that I might inquiro what manner of paine he felt, & how Intense, & it seemd to me but I am not sure of it, that when he said the paine was come into his Toes there was a visible alteration in some of them, afterward by stroaking the Extreamitys of his Toes both above & below with the glove, especially that part which had been contiguous to the palme of Mr G's hand ['as well as mine' deleted] ) as also his heele into which he complaind some paine had be driven, he affirmd that paine to be quite stroakd away.


/BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 53r/

Entry 3: Editorial notes:
Marginal notes integral to entry text

This night one Mr [blank space in MS, 4-5 characters] Carington Scivener liveing near Charing-Crosse was sent for by Dr Sydnham to my chamber to try whether he could disprov the efficacy of Mr G.'s hand; This Scrivener being a noted person & particularly for his having been many years lame he came but slowly & in paine <&> told my footboy who was sent for him, that he came only to comply with the Dr withoute expecting to receive any Benefit by Mr G., being come into the Roome I desird him to sit ['i' altered from 'e'] downe & uncover his knee, bec. that though Mr. G. having been informd that there was a dislocation in his Hip told him he pretended not to cure him of that Infirmity yet he (Mr G.) made noe doubt to ease him of the paine he usually & at that time also had in his Knee & accordingly Mr G. having stroakd his Knee a litle, though for about halfe a minute he sayd he felt the paine to continue yet within about a minute more as I ghessd being stroakd ['c' between 'a' and 'k' deleted] at 2 severall times the first to remove the paine, & the second to confirme what he had first done & to strengthen the part the patient affirmd to me that he then felt noe paine at all; & also assurd me upon my questioning it that he was in actuall paine when he sate downe to be stroakd (having likewise affirmd to the writer of this that ['his p' deleted] in walking to Mr Gr: the paine had made him sweat,) being desird by me to walk about because he sayd that walking was apt to put <him> into paine he tooke divers moves in the adjoyning Parlour /BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 53v/ & told a neece of mine, & some others who were there that he had not walkd soe much with the freedome from paine 53 year: & when he told me that he <had> [ replacing 'could' deleted] walkd ['d' at end of word inserted] whist I was talking with G. without the help of the staffe he leand upon coming hither, & I objected that neverthelesse I saw it in his hand he repleyd ['pleyd' altered from 'played'] that he had not indeed layd it aside, but had not made use of it, which ['one that' deleted] my neece that was with him in Parlour confirmd to me: he seend to be much affected with the chang that was wrought in him, & declard that he thankd God first & next that he thought himselfe obleigd to thank Mr G. as his Instrument & when he went away gave thanks to us & particularly to me that had helpd him to this releife, & would have left with some of the house a gratuity for Mr. G: which would not be receivd. Note. that Mr. G. told him that in regard his paine went not oute at his Toes, it was but dispoersd or ['conceald' deleted] made to lurke & would trouble him againe ['&' deleted] & that the removall of the paine ['was done in the' deleted] & the Acknowledgment of it by the Scrivener was done in the presence of Dr Sydnham as well as in the presence of my Sister R. Dr Whitscock & Dr Fairecloth who then happend to be in my chamber.


Entry 4: Editorial notes:

This same night there came to him one Mrs Story (that was lately my Landlady [second 'a' altered from 'y'] ) bringing with her her boy betweene [altered from 'of'] 6 & 7 years of Age, who about a year ['& a ha' deleted] agoe after having been sick of the small pox had a defluxion on one of his Eys, ['but' deleted] which swelld the parts about it, & seemd to have impaird the Eye itselfe. for when we would have lookd narrowly into it the child who as his mother told us was not able to endure the light of the candle could not hold it open & cryd much out of an unwillingnesse to have it meddled with, but after much adoe, the candle being held behind his head, he soe farr opend his Eye that Mr. G. could spit into it, which he did & rubd it a litle with his finger, after which the child being askd how he did complaind he felt paines & pricking in the parts about the Eye especially as I ghessd about the Temporall Muscle, which Mr G. having stroakd 3. or 4. times over with his fingers (which I think tooke not halfe a minute. the boy being againe askd whether he felt any paine answerd that he did [largely illegible due to damage caused by bottom of page cut off] [approximately 15 characters illegible, ] [tell] [unclear] [approximately 5 characters illegible, ] [which] [unclear] [approximately 12 characters illegible, ] [gone] [unclear]


/BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 50r/

[Authorial heading]:
Aprill the 13th

Entry 5: Editorial notes:

This day a <yonge> woman came among other Patients to be curd of a great thicknesse of hearing she complaind of, & he haveing put his fingers in her ears, and (as I remember) a litle strookd them, she complaind no more of her deafnesse, but a great pain that resided in the fore part of her Head, where haveing strookd her, he presently dislodgd the pain, & after haveing chasd if from place to place about her Head, as she informd us, at length she told us that both her pain & the deafnesse were gone, & when I askd her how long she had ['bin soe long' deleted] bin soe thick of hearing, she innocently answerd me ever since the birth of her first child, & when I smileing demaunded how <long> it was since she was brought in Bed of her first child, she said about a year & a quarter, and affirmeing her self to be recoverd, as she seemd to the by-standers to be, she went away joyfull.


Entry 6: Editorial notes:

Another woman that stood by her was likewise at the same time curd, as she professd, of a great, & obstinate pain in her Head, by Mr G. his hand which being layd on the upper part of her Head, the pain removd to other parts thereof, & sometimes to her neck after which she complaind that it was got into her eyes, at which time observeing them ['dil' deleted] attentively, her eyelidds tremld much, & seemd to me to have very many little convulsive motions, which by being stroakd went away, & the woman professd her self to be <quite> freed from her pain; but desird him to cure her of a great noyse ['she' deleted] she had in her ears, to which part haveing applyd his fingers, she presently told him, ['at & after assurd me,' deleted] that the troublesome sound was gone, & afterwards assurd me she heard as undisturbdly as ever.


Entry 7: Editorial notes:
Marginal notes integral to entry text

Some hower's agoe Mr G. & I being discoursing in my Chamber a servant of my sister Ranalaughs, who has been taken notice of as much indisposd to beleive Mr G. Cures, came to the doore & spoke to me, in the behalfe /BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 50v/ of my sisters Woman (Mrs Margeret Manning) who having this day had a tedious & violent fit of the head Ach, which at length forcd her to lye downe on the Bed for a litle ease, was by one of her fellow servants perswaded <to rise & ['to' deleted] > to have recourse to Mr G. who at my desire calld her in & asking her where shee felt the paine that which [altered from 'was'] <she told us was> soe greivous, layd his hand on the fore part of her head where that was fixd, & then demanding where she felt it, she answerd that it was still in the same place, where upon stroaking her forehead a litle, when ['w' altered from 'h'] she was askd where it was now she pointed at the midle part of her head, upon which laying his hand her hood being on & stroaking a litle, she sayd she felt noe paine, but a litle giddynes & some kind of trembling, where upon stroaking againe a litle ['up' deleted] about the middle of her head without takeing of her hood, she seemd to feele some litle paine on ['e' at end of word deleted] one side of her neck, where his hand persueing it she presently declard to me that she was quite well & being desird to walke about a litle & whether she were assurd she felt none she answerd <me> affirmatively, & when her way very well satisfyd, leaving Mr G. to resume his Discourse, which he persued as unconcernedly as if nothing had happend at all to interrupt it. After this we were calld to supper, & Mr G. ['so b' deleted] sate with us about an hower after supper, & then casually meeting the Patient she told me that shee had not since any paine at all.


Entry 8: Editorial notes:

When we were goeing to sit downe to supper my younger neece being missd, & my sister having askd why she came not downe, & been answerd that she was troubled with a violent head ach, I desird she might be invited downe to be touchd by Mr G. who laying his hand on her forehead, where she sayd her pain was, & being askd how she did sayd that the paine was lessend, but her head made very giddy, whereupon he layd his hand on the middle of her head, but could not touch it becuase of her peake, she seemed to think the remnant /text in left-hand margin begins here/of her paine removd to another part of her head the giddynesse continuing, & his hand being applyd thereabouts as well as the dresse of her head would permit, she told me that she felt her head as she imagind full of fumes but the paine was quite gone.


Entry 9: Editorial notes:

Apr. 1 ['6' deleted] 6. This night asking my neece at suppertime how shee had done since Mr G. stroakd her head, she informd us that as he presently releivd her of her paine soe shee had since had noe headach, but a sickishnes in her stomach which she had before he stroakd her, & having afterwards askd my sister Woman how she did, she replyd that [' [since] [unclear]' deleted] yesternight, she felt her paine in her shoulder, which after went away, but since she was touchd, which was above 24 howers before she had been very free from paine in her head, which agrees very well with what Mr G. foretold as soone as he had stroakd her, namely that since went not out at the usuall places as the fingers Toes or Eyes, she should quickly hear of it againe somewhere else but not in her head.


/BL, Add MS 4293, 51r/

/text in body of page begins here/

[Authorial heading]:
Aprill the 15

Entry 10: Editorial notes:

Mr G. told me that usually those that were subject to the Falling sicknesse as soon as ever he comes neer him, & before he touches them, fall into a fit, and that ['he' deleted] when he stroakes them, they come to themselves for the most part, & if they regain use enough of their senses to be able to tell him where they feel the pain, he then releives them as he dos other Patients, by chaseing the paine from place to place till he have driven it quite away, but if they recover not sense enough to tell him where the pain is, is oftentimes does as it were hide it self for the present, but is not quite expeld. He thinks most Epileptick Persons to be Dæmoniacks not withstanding what I could say to the contrary; & related to me that in the presence of divers eminent Persons whom he namd, & one of which being told that I knew him, he desird me to aske about the truth of the story, haveing causd a good number of Epileptick Persons to be brought before he came to them in a place by themselves, when he came neer they did all of them in a very short time, fall into Fitts, & one of them into stupendious ones.


Entry 11: Editorial notes:

He tells me that in Fitts of the Mother his hand being applyd to the stomach of the ['Person' deleted] Patient there is usually felt a pain in some particular parts, and that he follows it, as in other cases, from place to place till it be quite expeld, but sayes that oftentimes the pains in which he makes the Histericall fitts terminate, invade the throate with a threatening of suffocation very manifest to the eyes of the beholders, & that the matter that causes the pain oftentimes seems to the Patient /BL, Add MS 4293, fol. 51v/ to goe out of the mouth like something extreamly cold, & that he himself ['do' deleted] has now & than felt that coldnesse they ['com' deleted] complaind of, which makes me remember that an <ould> woman whom I saw him cureing of an auncient lamenesse, and complaind that he had driven the pain from her thigh & knee into her foot, when I askd her what she felt there, she very seriously affirmd to me that with much pain she felt a coldnesse, as if cold water (for that was her expression) was pourd upon the bottome of her toes.


Entry 12: Editorial notes:

He likewise answerd me that he had oftentimes curd wounds almost as strangely as other distempers, & that not only the <contact> [ replacing 'laying on' deleted] of his hand presently takes off the pain of ['it' deleted] them, but that by barely laying his hand on the Bedclothes where the Patient layes, he ['los' deleted] performes the same thing, of which he namd me an eminent instance in a knowne Person.