Not such a charitable surgeon

Newspaper advertisements for pills and potions were commonplace by the eighteenth century, promising wonder cures and infallible remedies for almost any ailment, particularly those that people didn’t want to talk about. Been diverting yourself with the lower sort? Never fear, buy this book and find a cure for whatever embarrassing condition you now find yourself saddled with:

The Charitable Surgeon: Or, The best Remedies for the worst Maladies reveal’d. Being a New and True Way of Curing (without Mercury) the several Degrees of the Venereal Distemper in both Sexes, whereby all Persons, even the meanest Capacities, may, for an inconsiderable Charge, without Confinement of Knowledge of the nearest Relation, Cure themselves easily, speedily and safely, by the Methods prescrib’d, without the help of any Physician, Surgeon or Apothecary, or being expos’d to the hazardous Attempts of Quacks and Pretenders. To which is subjoin’d, A new Discovery of the true Seat of Claps in Men and Women, different from the commonly receiv’d Opinion of Authors. As also, A Peculiar Method of curing their Glects and Weaknesses, whether Venereal, Seminal, or otherwise; with some pertinent Observations relating thereto, never before taken notice of. Likewise, The certain, easie Way to escape Infection, tho’ never so often accompanying with the most polluted Companion. By T. C. Surgeon. Printed for, and sold by Edmund Curle, at the Peacock without Temple-Bar, 1708. Price stitch’d 1 s.

English Post with News Foreign and Domestick, Wednesday, November 24, 1708.

The originator of this book of wonders was Edmund Curle or Curll, a notorious London publisher and bookseller who produced cheap and cheerful books on a vast range of subjects, from phoney medical treatises to erotic literature, from religious tracts to pirated versions of works by Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. His main concern was making money by any means possible, famously saying in his Compleat Key to The Dunciad: ‘There are but Two Things to be consider’d in every HEROIC Poem; First, how to write it, Secondly, how to make it sell.’ His trial for publishing the sexually explicit and delightfully titled Venus in the Cloister: or, The Nun in Her Smock formed the foundation of English law for obscene libel until the 1950s.