Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  On a Patient Killed by a Cancer Quack

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

On a Patient Killed by a Cancer Quack

By Lemuel Hopkins (1750–1801)

[From Kettell’s “Specimens of American Poetry.” 1829.]

HERE lies a fool flat on his back,

The victim of a cancer quack;

Who lost his money and his life,

By plaster, caustic, and by knife.

The case was this—a pimple rose,

South-east a little of his nose,

Which daily reddened and grew bigger,

As too much drinking gave it vigor.

A score of gossips soon ensure

Full threescore different modes of cure;

But yet the full-fed pimple still

Defied all petticoated skill;

When fortune led him to peruse

A hand-bill in the weekly news,

Signed by six fools of different sorts,

All cured of cancers made of warts;

Who recommend, with due submission,

This cancer-monger as magician.

Fear winged his flight to find the quack,

And prove his cancer-curing knack;

But on his way he found another,—

A second advertising brother:

But as much like him as an owl

Is unlike every handsome fowl;

Whose fame had raised as broad a fog,

And of the two the greater hog:

Who used a still more magic plaster,

That sweat forsooth, and cured the faster.

This doctor viewed, with moony eyes

And scowled-up face, the pimple’s size;

Then christened it in solemn answer,

And cried, “This pimple’s name is—cancer.

But courage, friend, I see you’re pale,

My sweating plasters never fail;

I’ve sweated hundreds out with ease,

With roots as long as maple trees;

And never failed in all my trials—

Behold these samples here in vials!

Preserved to show my wondrous merits,

Just as my liver is—in spirits.

For twenty joes the cure is done—”

The bargain struck, the plaster on,

Which gnawed the cancer at its leisure,

And pained his face above all measure.

But still the pimple spread the faster,

And swelled, like toad that meets disaster.

Thus foiled, the doctor gravely swore,

It was a right rose-cancer sore;

Then stuck his probe beneath the beard,

And showed him where the leaves appeared;

And raised the patient’s drooping spirits,

By praising up the plaster’s merits.

Quoth he, “The roots now scarcely stick—

I’ll fetch her out like crab or tick;

And make it rendezvous, next trial,

With six more plagues, in my old vial.”

Then purged him pale with jalap drastic,

And next applied the infernal caustic.

But yet, this semblance bright of hell

Served but to make the patient yell;

And, gnawing on with fiery pace,

Devoured one broadside of his face;

“Courage, ’tis done,” the doctor cried,

And quick the incision knife applied:

That with three cuts made such a hole,

Out flew the patient’s tortured soul!

Go, readers, gentle, eke and simple,

If you have wart, or corn, or pimple,

To quack infallible apply;

Here’s room enough for you to lie.

His skill triumphant still prevails,

For death ’s a cure that never fails.