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A Small Moment of Great Illumination

Searching for Valentine Greatrakes, the Master Healer

published by Shoemaker and Hoard

Review from Publishers Weekly

"Pitt delves into the life and times of the now obscure but once famous Irish 'healer,' Valentine Greatrakes, a wealthy member of the gentry who amazed 17th-century contemporaries with his seemingly God-given ability to lay his hands on the afflicted, and cure them of every ailment, from dropsy to cancer. Patients said they felt the pain 'move' through their body and leave via their fingertips, nose, toes, eyes, mouth or ears, never to return. Pitt, intrigued by a footnote in a history of medicine he happened to read in 1989, describes his years-long journey to discover as much as he could about this enigmatic man: was he a charlatan, a well-meaning quack or an authentic healer? Greatrakes's well-placed friends, such as the great scientist Robert Boyle, were inclined to believe the latter (as does Pitt, one infers), but he was subjected to bitter attacks by his many enemies. In the Middle Ages, Greatrakes might have had an easier ride, but living as he did on the cusp of the Enlightenment and the rise of the scientific method, Greatrakes's claims were intensely scrutinized. Likewise, modern readers may applaud Pitt's sleuthing but err on the side of skepticism."(Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

A Small Moment of Great Illumination

A Testimonial for One of Greatrakes's Cures

A women is treated for breast cancer. One of the eye-witnesses is the poet Andrew Marvell.

April 10, 1666

Dorothy, the wife of John Pocock of Chiveley, in the county of Berkshire, aged 45, had a tumor began in her breast about August 1665, which in the beginning of April 1666 was grown so big as a large pullett's egg, and [thought] by sundry physicians and surgeons to be a cancer, and no other way of curing then by cutting it out, was twice stroked by Mr. Greatraks, and after the second time the tumor was grown softer so that he opened it, and out thereof flowed a great quantity of concocted matter, and after that by gentle stroking Mr. Greatraks brought forth the bag wherein the matter had lain, out of the small orifice, and she professes herself to be very well of her breast, and also to be freed of a great pain which she had had in her arm and shoulder for the space of eight months . . . past.

Signed in the presence of Dorothy Pocock, Andrew Marvel, J. Faireclough, Thomas Allured, Thomas Pooley