A Quack’s Cure

Lionel Lockyer is not a person on everybody’s lips these days, but there was a time his name or at least his product was on the lips of every well heeled person in Georgian London.

For Lionel Lockyer sold his imitable pills at inflated prices claiming they worked to cure every malady that might befell the purchaser for they contained amongst their ingredients – sunbeams.

[L]ionel Lockyer whose monument is to be found in Southwark Cathedral was a self styled ‘Physitian’ who during his lifetime amassed a fortune selling his miracle cure. He even went to his grave extolling the virtues of his pills as his monument proclaims:

“Here Lockyer lies interr’d enough; his name

Speakes one hath few competitors in fame.

A name soe Greate, soe Generall’t may scorne

Inscriptions wch doe vulgar tombs adorne:

A diminution ’tis to write in verse

His eulogies wch most mens mouths rehearse.

His virtues & his PILLS are soe well known,

That envy can’t confine them vnder stone,

But they’ll surviue his dust and not expire

Till all things else at th’universall fire.

This verse is lost, his PILL Embalmes him safe

To future times without an Epitaph.”

He appears to have worked as a tailor then later as a butcher before moving into quackery.

Having no pharmaceutical knowledge his first effort was to colour an existing medicine with cochineal and pass it off as his own.

He was a master of marketing producing 200,000 pamphlets to promote his new pills, giving them the enticing name ‘pillulæ radijs solis extractæ’ a Latin name intended to mean they contained an extract of the sun’s rays.

He claimed that he was a licensed physician who prepared the drug
himself, which he then sealed with
the maker’s coat of arms and sold
it at only 40 ‘exclusive’ deals in
England.

William Johnson, chemist to the College of Physicians, analysed the product and found they contained vitrum antimonii (glass of antimony) a type of transparent glass which was often used to induce vomiting. He also claimed that the 16 shillings charged for the pills could be made easily by any apothecary for three pence.

Lockyer died in 1672 at the age of 72 (a good age at that time, did he take his own concoctions to prolong his life?). He lied beneath his tomb which shows him in a reclined position, clutching a medical book in his left hand.

Only can only surmise that he is in death cocking-a-snook at his detractors in the medical world.

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