Kant’s Universal History

I come now to that part of my theory which gives its greatest charm, by the sublime idea
which it presents of the plan of the creation.
– Immanuel Kant, Universal Natural History and the Theory of the Heavens

This Earth slows for me, or it slows altogether.
And they hand me a prize from Berlin.
Sat in a gold adorned room, crossed the courtyard
passed the fountain, should be proud –

but the retardation of the Earth, it’s merely the Earth doing this.
Some unseen force of God.
Not me.

Just like this Milky Way that I am staring at tonight
through my telescope. Once these astronomers thought
these spots of light filled all the heavens
and the heaven of heavens without order and
without intention. But here
through this telescope
I can see.

Through this eye,
my camera obscura.

It must be our brains.
These marvellous brains
that have constructed
space and time.

But I cannot explain these processes.
How this data arranges.
Gives order to the chaos.

I Cant.

(The name
I
changed
and hid).

And so begins

my silent decade.

* * * * *

Jess Taylor is the founder of The Emerging Writers Reading Series (http://ewreading.wordpress.com). She is also a fiction and non-fiction writer, a poet, an artist, and a musician. After growing up in the remote and often forgotten town of Palgrave, Ontario, she has moved to Toronto, Ontario. She is currently attending the University of Toronto for their English in the Field of Creative Writing MA Program. To read, watch, and see more of Jess Taylor, check out www.jesstaywriter.com.

This is her first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

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A first-person account of Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa, continued

We recently received correspondence from our esteemed research colleague Wiebke Henning, who has been looking into the background of Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa. She had previously unearthed a letter (which you can find here) sent from one Antonia Gallagher – a distant relative of Ms. Henning – to her sister in northern Germany, in which some details of Dr. Hurley’s spa came to light. Our editors also discovered a further letter (here) when on a recent trip to Ireland.

Seamus Hurley’s history is slowly becoming clearer, however, thanks to a new letter provided by Ms. Henning. The letter, once again from Antonia Gallagher, documents more of the fledgling doctor’s methods and cure-alls. Reproduced below in the original German, we have taken the liberty of translating the letter for your reading pleasure.

My dear Sister,

I hope this letter finds you and yours in the best of health. We have heard that winter hit you hard this year. Are the potatoes and the cabbage at least serviceable? I do hope that everything will flourish again in spring, and that you can replenish your stores. Here in Ireland both of these vegetables are awfully fashionable. And they grow so well that we could almost certainly live off of them for decades.

I have decided to remain in Dr. Hurley’s spa a little longer. The treatments are helping me terrifically, and Eamonn, too, believes that a longer stay can certainly only do me good. Ten days ago on Friday he came to visit me for a few days. He cannot always extricate himself from his official duties, but Brian, his aide, knows enough about the business by now that he can do without Eamonn for a few days. My beloved husband even let himself be cajoled into trying out a few of the Doctor’s remedies. And what do you know, he was so spry on his feet after taking Hurley’s Footbath Cure! Oh, but I haven’t told you anything about those yet! Alongside the potions and tinctures, Seamus has built a footbath for us! Behind the barns there is now a cabin where large troughs have been set up. They are filled with water, and we must stand in them and wade around for at least half an hour. The water is icy cold, and it is mightily strenuous having to lift your knees as high as the Doctor orders. But given that he tells us it will do no good unless you do as he says, I always try very hard! My absolute favorites are the baths that contain not only water, but also the most wonderful slush. You feel just like a child, with skirts hiked up to your knees and with bare feet walking round in this mud! The mud gets in between each of your toes, and I always stay in there so long that the Doctor himself comes and orders me to get out. Often, I can convince him to let me have a few more minutes with that splendid feeling. And I honestly believe that the Doctor’s presence during any treatment improves its effect. During one of these moments, I asked the Doctor where he acquired all of his medicinal expertise. You wouldn’t believe it, but he actually devised most of his curative treatments himself during long hours of research, and he tested everything on himself until he found the correct recipe and dosage for every potion and tincture! I marvel at this courageous, clever, and selfless man! Even now, he continues work on his most recent cures. And just imagine – he actually asked me to help him with his tests! I am a little worried about how the whole thing works, but of course, I would like to help support Dr. Hurley’s in any way I can. It’s the least I can do to show my gratitude. I will tell you all about it soon!

Yes, I am so thankful to be here. My nerves are so much calmer. Every evening, I partake of at least two potions. Afterwards, I sleep tremendously well, so much so that I don’t even want to go without the potions any more. How I wish I could share this experience with you!

My dearest, I would be awfully happy to hear from you again soon. And I cannot wait to see you again, soon, I hope soon. I am disappointed that my trip was not possible, but I am more than thankful for what I have. But who knows, perhaps times will get better for you again soon. No guest would be as welcome to me than you!

My most heartfelt and loving kisses,

Your Sister

Meine liebe Schwester,

Ich hoffe dieser Brief erreicht dich und die deinen in bester Gesundheit. Wir haben gehört, dass der Winter euch in diesem Jahr hart getroffen hat. Sind denn zumindest die Kartoffeln und der Kohl brauchbar? Ich hoffe sehr, dass im Frühjahr wieder alles gedeiht, damit die Keller voll werden. Hier in Irland sind diese beiden Gemüse schwer in Mode. Aber sie gedeihen so gut, da können wir sicher noch jahrzehntelang drauf vertrauen.

Ich habe mich entschlossen, noch ein wenig in Dr. Hurleys Bad zu bleiben. Die Behandlungen tun mir hervorragend gut, und Eamonn meint auch, dass ein längerer Aufenthalt sicherlich nur von Vorteil sein kann. Freitag vor 10 Tagen kam er mich für einige Tage besuchen. Nicht immer kann er sich aus dem Kontor loseisen, aber Brian, sein Gehilfe, weiß schon so viel über das Geschäft, dass er auch einmal ein paar Tage ohne Eamonn auskommt. Mein geliebter Mann ließ sich überreden, selbst ebenfalls einige Anwendungen des Doktors auszuprobieren. Was meinst du, wie gut zu Fuß er wieder war, nachdem er Hurleys Tretbadkur hinter sich hatte! Ach, von denen habe ich dir noch gar nicht berichtet! Neben den Tränken und Tinkturen hat Seamus ein Tretbad für uns gebaut. Hinter den Ställen steht nun eine Hütte, in der große Tröge aufgestellt sind. Sie sind mit Wasser gefüllt, und man muss mindestens eine halbe Stunde darin stehen und umherwaten. Das Wasser ist eisig kalt und es ist mächtig anstrengend, die Knie immer so hoch zu ziehen, wie der Doktor es vorschreibt. Aber weil er sagt, dass es sonst nichts bringt, gebe ich mir immer viel Mühe!

Am allerliebsten sind mir die Bäder, in denen man nicht nur Wasser tritt sondern die auch noch schönsten Schlamm enthalten. Man fühlt sich wie ein Kind, wenn man mit nacketen Füßen und bis zu den Knien hochgezogenen Röcken im Matsch tritt! Der Schlamm gelingt in jeden Zwischenraum zwischen den Zehen, und ich bleibe immer so lange darin, bis der Doktor selbst kommt und mir vorschreibt auszusteigen. Oft kann ich ihn überreden, mich noch ein paar Minuten länger des herrlichen Gefühls hingeben zu dürfen. Ich glaube zudem, dass die Anwesenheit des Doktors während der Behandlung die Wirkung noch verbessert. Bei einer dieser Gelegenheiten fragte ich den Doktor, wo er all seine medizinischen Weisheiten erlangt hat. Du wirst es nicht glauben, aber er hat doch tatsächlich die meisten der Kuranwendungen selbst in langen Arbeitsstunden erdacht und alles in Selbstversuchen erprobt, bis er für alle Tränke und Tinkturen die richtigen Rezepte und Dosierungen heraus hatte! Ich bewundere diesen tapferen, klugen und selbstlosen Mann! Noch immer arbeitet er weiter an neuesten Kuren. Und stell dir vor, er hat mich doch tatsächlich gefragt, ob ich ihm bei den Tests helfen würde! Ich fürchte mich ein wenig, wie das wohl vor sich geht, aber natürlich möchte ich Dr. Hurleys unterstützen wie ich nur kann. Es ist das Mindeste, das ich tun kann, um ihm meine Dankbarkeit zu zeigen. Ich werde dir bald berichten!

Ja, ich bin wirklich dankbar hier zu sein. Meine Nerven haben sich hervorragend beruhigt. Ich nehme nun jeden Abend mindestens zwei der Tränke zu mir. Danach schlafe ich hervorragend, und ich möchte gar nicht mehr ohne die Tränke sein. Wie gern würde ich dieses Erlebnis mit dir teilen!

Meine Liebste, ich würde mich fürchterlich freuen, bald wieder von dir zu hören. Und ich kann es nicht erwarten, dich hoffenlich bald auch wieder zusehen. Ich bin traurig, dass Reisen in die Heimat mir nicht vergönnt sind, aber ich bin mehr als dankbar über das, was ich habe. Aber wer weiß, vielleicht bessern sich ja auch die Zeiten bei euch bald wieder. Kein Gast wäre mir mehr willkommen als du!

Es grüßt und küsst dich aufs Herzlichste

Deine Schwester

* * * * *

Wiebke Henning is a northern German native who fills her professional life with lots of language(s)  and spends her free time buying flowers, eating Italian food and drinking wine as well as watching soccer and drinking beer. She’s also a great coffee lover and is looking forward to the day when she can afford an apartment that has a kitchen big enough to house a professional espresso machine.

An Incomplete Biography of Dr. Hurley, cont’d: A Medical Man?

During Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure‘s recent research trip to  Ireland, we uncovered some artifacts related to Dr. Seamus Hurley’s past. For our previous entries in the biography of Dr. Hurley, click here and here.
*

An Sciobairín, Corcaigh1, 5th September, 1855

My dear Dr. Cornish—

Your estimation of this fellow appears to have been sadly confirmed. Though his ministrations have led to success in the past and, I admit, several of his patients have changed sufficiently in hue and temperament during the duration of my stay to prove that his methods are not wholly without merit, I would discourage in the strongest terms his admission into the College2.

After my initial expedition, I made a supplementary call on the clinic in Cill Orglan3 where the ‘good Doctor’—as the skeleton crew at his ‘Baths’4 calls him—obtained his medical training. Although there is a record of one Séamus O’Herlihy5 exiting their program of study (frankly, a program from which the College ought to withdraw support), none of the physicians there was able to provide any further documentary evidence of O’Herlihy’s existence. However, most claimed to have known the man. What contradiction!

As to the fellow himself: the good Dr. Seamus Hurley has no more skill treating dysentery or female hysteria than he does letting blood. He is, my friend, a quacksalver! His skills would harm rather than heal our esteemed organization in the eyes of our countrymen. The College, as we all know, has been through a difficult period, and though we are in dire need of physicians, we must not allow the vagaries of recent years6 to benefit the Hurleys of the world!

Forgive my harshness. I look forward to reconvening in Dublin and to being rid of these potions and notions, these brittle Germans and Englishwomen looking for health and succour in meaningless tinctures and Oriental mumbo-jumbo

Respectfully, your friend and colleague,

Ciaran O’Sullivan, M.D.

 —

  1. Skibbereen, Co. Cork
  2. The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.
  3. Killorglin, Co. Kerry
  4. Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths & Spa, in Co. Cork.
  5. The Irish clan name O’Herlihy was often anglicised as ‘O’Hurley’. Seamus Hurley would likely have been a common name in the West Cork/Kerry area of Ireland at this time.
  6. Unclear.

A letter from Tristram Wharle-Knapp, pertaining to the madness of one William Falla

The following letter was transcribed and submitted to us by Felix Knapp, a descendant of the author. It contains, we believe, valuable biographical information pertaining to the late Zacharia Falla’s forebears.

To,— The Rt. Hon. Ebenezer KELLOGG
At London
30 Nov. 1763

Most Esteem’d Sir,—***

Your Letter of the favor’d 13th was in this Home well receiv’d,— and the Discourse upon the Stars, Sir, too terribly Illustrat’d for mine own Sight the Nature of Heav’nly Bodies, and flighing Objeckts, so that, in a momentary mental Cholick,— which, as you, Sir, may comprehend, has occasion to Afflict my fever’d Brain, whipp’d, as is its Wont, into an anguish’d Ferment,— the Eyes in my Head soon requir’d of me their Opticks, which came to me one Day cheaply, with profoundest Gratitude to the gen’rous Soul of Mr CAVENDISH, G-d bless his Familie.

I write this Day to inform you, in the fêt’d Fervour of this anniversary Celebration, as to the Facts of my Neighbour three Houses o’er the Line, nam’d William FALLA,— a most un-assuming Chap, predispos’d, like a Childe, to Blobber-lipp’d Talk of Pea-gooses, and of Rancid and encumber’d Religion,— viz. th’ Catholick type, in all its adorn’d Popery,— (how the Poet in his Monument turns! how he Rages!),— and also, Sir, a Tipler, for whom ev’ry Evening a Bracer is thrice swallow’d. Armour, Sir, comes bottl’d for th’ Grumbletonian Clan ‘midst our fine City, embroider’d in the finest Fashion.

This is not, Sir, a Cavil deposit’d ‘pon your Door-Step,— nay, nothing of the Sort is to be found within the stately Confines of my œuvre,— my practic’d Hand, daub’d in Ink, grips the Pen with the Strength of an Iron-Monger, or   some other Occ. unsuit’d to the fantom Tribulations of Clerk-Ship, though my Mind be twice steel’d against Barbarism, and Fallacy. For it came that my Tabitha, 3. days ago this Minute, witness’d Mr FALLA, in a state of advanc’d Addle, nearly bath’d in his own Fluids, a fellow for th’ like of RABELAIS. Recall to your Mind, sir, th’ Alcofribasian Sickness, which thiev’d your Yrs. of its most Deckt-Out (in Clergy) Gentlemen. A glory’d Tribute, Sir, though no less distinguish’d thro’ the passing of Time, to the deprav’d Anglers amongst us,— and so too Mr FALLA! As I was prepar’d to elaborate, ere my anger at base Anticks was rais’d, Mr FALLA did 3. Days prior accost, by Fact of his Presence, my Wife, who later inform’d me o’er pickl’d Onions and our daily Bread, that Mr FALLA did assault her with his Odour, and at great length discours’d ‘pon the Malfwaddle, and the  Jinkstrother, and the Pollyprozzler, which came to him, said he, in the Wood o’er the Hill 12m. distant. Tabitha, whose Spirit, since th’ Assault, has crack’d and suffer’d of an In-Borne Quietus, report’d to me that Mr FALLA,— who, I state again for observ’t. Posterity, smell’d as though he had lately emerg’d from a Tub of rank Tip, or from a Manure-Heap adj. the Sows of Lord PONSONBY, did offer in his fresh-colour’d Palms, an un-disclos’d volm. of OLD NICK’s Tinckture, to be had for Rabbet-Sucker’s Prices,— ’tis too dearly Borne, Sir, a Slate or three, to Part.

Sir! cherish’d Sir! I beg of you the Security of my Familie,— my Wife, Tabitha,— or Hemera, for her Disposition is such that blackest Night will not Suffer to stand in her Foot-Prints, nor ‘twixt her out-spread Arms,— recoils at th’ first visage of Thought of Mr FALLA, who wholly lacks Shame or Decency, and who clothes himself in the odious Fabrick of the Beggar,— a Railleur Shab’d-off with the Laudanum, and Romboyl’d ‘cross the Country-Side on a cranksided Prosthesis, shouting all the while, ‘A frubbytendal! a frubbytendal! An Half-Crown to the Lot o’ ye who brings ‘ere a frubbytendal!’ ’tis not too late, Sir, to un-leash the Dogs ‘pon this frantick Supernumerarie, and to send him where he ought! Gainfully imprison’d, as the Spungers say, lest his Children grow feather’d Wings and call to the Moon as a Duck, or a Pigeon.

Give to your Familie my warmest Tidings,— spars’d Feeling, lately, under the terrors of Mr FALLA, in this the life of

e’er your Humble & obdt. Svt.,

Tristram Wharle-Knapp

A Brief History of the Universe

Darragh McManus’ poem “A Brief History of the Universe”, read by Snake-Oil Cure‘s editor DLR.

Click through to read the poem for yourself! (more…)

A first-person account of Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths & Spa

When a research colleague from Northern Germany contacted us recently, claiming to have found a document pertaining to Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa in Skibbereen, we were thrilled. Little did we know, however, that this document – a personal letter from one of the doctor’s patients to her sister (back home in Germany) – would provide such insight into daily life at the Restorative Baths.

The letter-writer – one Mrs. Antonia Gallagher – details the complaints that led her to go to the spa for recovery, describes the activities undertaken by the patients in residence there, and hints at the various treatments prescribed by the doctor. It appears that his assertions about tedium were borne out in the everyday operation of the spa as well as in the courses of treatment he espoused.

This document was uncovered by our esteemed German colleague while she was clearing the attic of a distant, recently deceased relative. It appears that this document survived against stacked odds – there is a good deal of water damage to the paper, a number of tears (the corners of the document seem to have been ripped as our colleague extricated it from behind a badly jammed desk drawer), as well as some evidence of a fire. Our colleague only has this one document to share at this time, but intimated that there may be others of a similar nature.

You may inspect the letter in its original form by clicking to expand the images. For those whose German is lacking, we have provided a translation below.

My dear Sister!

You have most likely been asking yourself why I have not written. Be reassured, there is no reason for concern. In fact, I am not spending the Spring in Cork, but have been sent south by Eamonn while he continues to conduct his business. I was, in any instance, terribly bored in Cork! Yes, I became acquainted with several Ladies from the church congregation, but everything is so strange here, both in the city and in the church. There really are only Catholics over here! You could not even begin to imagine!

I meet with them regularly to do needlework—with the Ladies from church, that is—but it is not really something to which I am suited, and I find it difficult to make myself understood. I continue, diligently, to learn English, but only with difficulty have I become used to the queer dialect of the Natives. Of course, I do not regret that I followed Eamonn, my one true love (for such he is!) to his native land, but the strangeness has begun to go to my liver. And all the rain! In Winter, there was hardly a week when the sun shone for more than one day! I could no longer be happy, and grew ever more querulous.

By chance, Eamonn heard of a place that was supposed to breathe a new joie de vivre into life. And now here I am, at Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa. Aside from me, there are eleven or twelve other guests, but the majority of them stay only for a few days. I, on the other hand, have been here for seventeen days and am recovering from the trials of city life. The establishment is overseen by one Dr. Hurley. He is indeed a young man, no more than five years older than I, and to all appearances in his mid-twenties, and is best equipped to raise and

reinvigorate the spirits of dispirited Men. Every morning, before breakfast, I walk on the beach and breathe in the fresh air and stretch my body as much as I possibly can. The Doctor says that it is good to expand the lungs in order to be well-armed for the day. And the day is always filled with one thing or another.

The Doctor believes, in fact, that boredom may be the death of modern society, and I am only too grateful that he has made it his goal to combat this. I play guessing games with the other guests, we paint and draw, for the ladies there is a crochet group and for the gentlemen a smoking room, and in any case, everyone here is in the best of moods. Of course, even here I have problems with the language, but everyone is so helpful and patient with me! After our evening meal, Dr. Hurley often holds forth on his newest discoveries, and he even hands out potions, herbal remedies and tinctures that help combat all of the ills that have afflicted the people here during their lives.

Often, of an evening, I have a brew of whiskey and different herbs that the Doctor grows in his garden behind the main building. What exactly is in it, he won’t say, but I tell you, it helps marvelously! Rarely was my mood so good as after partaking of this drink! However, the Doctor warns that you should only enjoy it in moderation, otherwise the potions can have the opposite to the intended effect. I myself take care to avoid drinking more than the prescribed measure. I heard from another guest that she woke up with a terrible headache after having drunk her sister-in-law’s portion (she had had indigestion) the evening before.

I plan to stay here for a few more weeks, and to return to Eamonn in Cork during the Summer. I miss him terribly, but I realise how good Dr. Hurley’s prescribed ministrations have been for me. I am quite

excited to see what will happen after my third week here. I have yet to taste any of the Doctor’s tinctures or herbal remedies, but I will let you know as soon as there is anything new to report!

And—how are things with you? Every evening I imagine how things might be going, and what you might be doing. You must certainly have a lot to do, but I am relieved to hear that Johann came to his senses and that you now have a housekeeper.

My most heartfelt and loving kisses,

Your loving sister Antonia


P.S. I am so looking forward to your next letter! Here is my address:

Mrs. Eamonn C. Gallagher
c/o Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa
Skibbereen
Ireland

As always, we would be thrilled to receive any further reports or information pertaining to Dr. Hurley’s beliefs, history, and practices.  Please send any pertinent information and/or documents to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.

The Repository for Neglected Chemists

Around the laboratory doors they float
in off-white coats, gazing with amazement
at the modern tools therein, hope renewed
that researchers might resurrect and fix
their metallurgical mistakes:
correct the color or consistency,
achieve the optimal environment.

Acclaim escapes them at the moment; still
they seek to find that special formula
with antiquated stone decanters and
dispensers, coaxing fumes from labyrinth-like
configurations made of copper pipe
and glass. Hands scalded glossy rose attest
to caustic blunders or concocting
now-known-as-harmful pharmaceuticals.

German, Dutch, or French, each existed for
his science, sacrificing friendship, health
and family for the flickering of lamps
and bubble of elixirs. Itching to
inhabit innovation’s realm, they fail
to fully grasp the methodology
required, find themselves still shackled to
the cobwebbed corridor of alchemy.

~Spring 2007