Account of Valentine Greatrakes, the Stroker
LXI. Account of Valentine Greatrakes, the Stroker.
IN the year 1666, Mr. Valentine Greatrakes, an Irish gentleman, came to England, being invited thither by the Earl of Orrery, to cure the Viscountess Con way of an inveterate head-ache, and, though he failed in that attempt, he wrought many surprising cures not unlike miracles. He was born Feb. 14, 1628, at Affane, in the county of Waterford, and bred a Protestant in the free-school at Lismore, till he was thirteen years of age. He was designed for the college of Dublin, but, the rebellion breaking out, was forced with his mother to fly into England, where he was kindly received by his great uncle, Edmund Harris, Esq. after whose death his mother placed him with one John Daniel Cetsius, a German minister, of Stoke Gabriel, in Devonshire. In five or six years, he returned to his native country, which he found in a distracted state, and therefore spent a year in contemplation at the castle of Caperquin. In 1649, he was a lieutenant in Lord Broghill's* regiment, then acting in Munster against the rebels; and in 1656, great part of the army being disbanded, retired to Aftane, his native place, and was made clerk of the peace for Cork county, registrar for transplantation, and justice of the peace; but losing his places after the Restoration, he grew discontented. He seemed very religious; his looks were grave but simple, and not like those of an impostor. He said himself, that ever since the year 1662, he had felt a strange impulse or persuasion that he had the gift of curing the King's evil; and this suggestion became so strong, that he stroked several persons, and cured them. Thre.e years after, an epidemical feter raging in the country, he was again persuaded that he could also cure that. He made the experiment, and he affirmed that he cured all who came to him. At length, in April, 1663, another kind of inspiration suggested to him, that he had the gift of healing wounds and ulcers; and experience, he also said, proved that he was not deceived. He even found that he cured convulsions, the dropsy, and many other distempers.* Crowds flocked to him from all parts, and he performed such extraordinary cures, that he was cited into the bishop's court at Lismore, and, not having a licence for practising, was forbid to lay hands on any for the future. Nevertheless, being engaged by the lady above-mentioned to come over to England, he arrived there in the beginning of 1666, and, as lie proceeded through the country, magistrates of the cities ond towns through which he passed, begged him to come and cure their sick. The King, being informed of it, ordered him, by the Earl of Arlington, Secretary of State, to come to Whitehall. The court, though not fully persuaded of his miraculous power, did not forbid him to make himself known. He went every day to a particular part of London, where a prodigious number of sick persons of all ranks, and of both sexes, assembled. He did nothing but stroke them. Pains, the gout, rheumatism, convulsions, &c. were driven by bis touch from one part to another, to the utmost extremities of the body, after which they entirely ceased. This occasioned his being .called The Stroker. He ascribed several disorders to evil spirits, which he divided into different kinds. As soon as the possessed saw him, or heard his voice, they fell on the ground, or into violent agitations. He cured them, as he did other sick persons, by stroking. He could not, however, convince every one of the reality of his miraculous gift; many wrote violently against him, but he found some zealous advocates, even among the faculty. He himself published, in 1666, a letter addressed to the celebrated Mr. Boyle, in which he gave a succinct history of his life,t from which the above particulars are extracted. He annexed to this pamphlet a great number of certificates, signed by persons of known probity, and among others by Mr. Boyle, and by the celebrated Drs. Wilkins, Whichcot, Cudworth, and Patrick, who attested the truth of some wonderful cures that he had wrought. Notwithstanding all this, his reputation did not last much longer than that of James Aymar.* It appeared at length that all these miraculous causes were only built on the credulity of the public. The noise which this man made, gave rise to a novel (in French), by M. St. Evremond, intitled, "The Irish Prophet," in which he finely rallies the credulity of the people, and the spirit of superstition. He alsq shews that there is no kind of conjuration which is able to lay this kind of demon, which sometimes disturbs the peace of society.
He returned to Ireland in 1667, and though he lived there many years, he no longer kept up the reputation of performing those strange cures which have procured him a name even in our general histories. But in this, his case is very singular, that on the strictest inquiry no sort of blemish was ever thrown upon his character ; nor did any of those curious and learned persons, who espoused his cause, draw any imputation upon themselves, though at the same time it must be allowed that there were several very eminent and knowing virtuosi, who could not be brought to have any great opinion of his performances, but were rather inclined to attribute all he did to the mere efficacy of friction.
* Among others, Mr. Flamsteed, the famous Astronomer, (then in his 40th year,) went over to Ireland, in August Iti65, to be touched by him for a natural weakness of constitution, but received no benefit.
f This letter was entitled, " A brief Account of Mr. Valentine Greatrakes, and divers of the strange Cures by him performed," &c. See also "TheMiraculous Conformist," 4cc. By Hem y Stubbe, M.D. Printed at Oxford, 1666.
source :A Selection of curious articles from the Gentleman's magazine (p.431)Par John WalkerEdition: 3Publié par Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1814
Tags : médecine
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