Excerpt from a description of ‘The Venereal Disease’ in John Marten’s A Treatise Of all the Degrees and Symptoms of the Venereal Disease, In both Sexes, 1708


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                Some ſay it is a Diſtemper very Malignant, Poyſonous

and Contagious, others differ ſo much from

that Opinion, as to ſay, the higheſt degree of Infection

has no Malignity in it at all, and that whenever

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they meet with a Patient that has a Clap, do, as faſt

as poſſible, adminiſter Medicines to ſtop the Running,

without any regard to what other Symptoms occur;

for that when the Running once ceaſes, all the other

Symptoms, (which, as they alledge, ever ſpring only

from the Running) go off in courſe, without any

detriment to the Patient.  But let thoſe that believe

ſo, do ſo if they will, I am ſatisfy’d, and too many

unfortunate People can very readily agree with me,

that it is the only ſure way to Pox the Patient, and

when once that is done, the Symptoms and Conſequences,

will ſpeak too plainly how far they have

been in the wrong, and what injury they have done

the poor Patient.  Several Inſtances of which kind,

the Reader will obſerve, before he gets to the end

of this Book.  But this by the way.

                Perſons in Years may alſo be infected by the

immodeſt open-Mouth’d, laſcivious Kiſſings of Venereal

People, eſpecially thoſe of them that have Ulcers

in their Mouths or Throats, and where at the ſame

time they dwell as it were upon their Lips and

Mouths, reiterating wanton, unſeemly Kiſſes, thereby

conveying their ſlimy, infectious Slaver, to ſuch; I

ſay, grown Perſons by that means may, and frequently

have gotten the Venereal Diſtemper, but

then generally they have been obſerv’d to complain

of their Throats firſt, it ſeizing them after the ſame

manner, as if ſome Cold had been taken, the Saliva

of the Pocky Perſon communicating its infectious

Streams no farther at firſt, than about the Glandules

in thoſe Parts, and which if not ſpeedily minded, Inflames,

Ulcerates, and ſpreads its Infection to the no

ſmall damage of the Patient.

                To this way of Infection alſo a certain Learned

Author aſſents, who ſays, that if it be received only

by Kiſſing of the Lips, it Bloſſoms there firſt, and

appears with Scabby Eruptions, and a ſore Mouth

or Throat; but if it be gotten by the Tail, ’tis not

preſently Charactered in the Face or other Parts,

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but ſtays ſome time in the lower Parts, the place

of its Conception or Birth, and afterwards upon neglect

or ill management, or both, Travels into other

Regions of the Body, and appears here and there,

with variety of ugly Shapes, and unwholeſome Salutes

to its new Quarters, ſuch as Pains, Pimples,

Itch, Spots, Scurf, Scabs, &c.

                But Infections this way, that is, by Kiſſing, are

ſoon cured, if taken in time; indeed in Children

much more difficultly, what with their not being

ſuſpected by the Parent or Attendant, of having

any ſuch Infection, and alſo not being capable of

complaining, and their tenderneſs (as obſerv’d before)

much ſooner attracting the Taint, it is the

more eaſily diffus’d and radicated, than in grown

Perſons, which with their incapacity of going thro’ a

Method that is proper, renders them conſequently

much harder of Cure, as the following Inſtance will


                A Child that I had in hand, ſome Years ſince, upon

ſucking a Wet-Nurſe, to whom it was put out

in the Country, grew ill, accompanied with breakings

out all over the Head and Face, (the Child

being perfectly well when it went Home)

I going one Day to ſee it, and taking notice of the

Nurſe, obſerv’d ſhe had a ſore Eye; upon a narrow

Enſpection of it, I had ſufficient cauſe of ſuſpicion,

whereupon I examin’d her concerning it, and tax’d

her with having the Diſtemper, which at firſt ſhe

denied, but afterwards when I had told her I was

poſitive it was ſo, and declared to her my Reaſons for

it, (other Symptoms concurring) and at the ſame

time urging her to acknowledge it; ſhe, with ſome

Reluctancy and Shame confeſſed the whole matter,

ſaying, ſhe got it from her Husband, who (by the

Character I afterwards heard of him) I do believe

was only in the Fault, not but that the Nurſe was

exceedingly to blame, and indeed very indiſcreet and

baſe to take the Child to Suckle, when (whatever

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Excuſes ſhe made to the contrary) ſhe could not but

beforehand be ſenſible of her Condition; but notwithſtanding

all the prudent endeavours, and neceſſary

means that could be uſed, as well by the Preſcripions

of an Eminent Phyſician, as my own, to ſave the poor

Infant, it daily grew worſe and worſe, and ſoon after

died in a moſt miſerable condition, to the no ſmall

trouble of the tender and honeſt Parents, whoſe Grief,

as may eaſily be ſuppos’d, was ſo much the more aggravated,

as the manner of its Death was woful and


                This ſingle inſtance, without enumerating others of

the like kind, which have occurr’d in my Practice,

may ſerve for a Caution to Parents to be wary and

careful what Wet-Nurſes they chooſe, and alſo to

wholſome Nurſes what Children they take to Suckle,

the danger being almoſt equal both to the one and

the other, ſince many Children that are Born of

Venereal Parents, bringing the Diſtemper into the

World with them, do, upon being put out to Nurſes to

Suckle, very often convey the Infection; as was the

condition of a Nurſe that I lately Cured, who by giving

Suck to a Pocky Child, of about two Months

Old, had her Breaſts all over ſpread with a Humour,

beginning firſt at the Nipples, which ſwell’d the

Glands, and Tumiſied, before ſhe ſo much as imagin’d

what ſhould be the Cauſe thereof; till upon

growing worſe, with breakings out, Inflammation and

Pain, ſhe ſought for help, and was told it was Venereal;

and making application to me, by the recommendation

of another, I ſoon recover’d her to her

Health, which ſhe now enjoys.

                Likewiſe a good ſober Woman, who had Suckled

ſeveral Gentlemen’s Children, to their great ſatiſfaction,

as good a Nurſe perhaps as can be, upon

giving Suck to a Child, ſeemingly, as ſhe thought,

very Healthy, (only had ſome breakings out about it,

which the Mother ſaid was only Heat and ſharp

Humours) was exceedingly infected with the Pox,

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her Nipples breaking out, her Throat ſore, with Ulcers,

a Hoarſeneſs, and Pains about her, &c. at firſt

ſhe did not mind it, not in the leaſt ſuſpecting any

harm; but when it invaded her Throat, cauſing

Hoarſneſs, as alſo Pains in her Limbs, and breakings

out on the Privy Parts, &c. ſhe began to fear, and

came for my Advice; for her Cure I advis’d to a

Salivation, which ſhe is now preparing for, and will

go into as ſoon as the Ulcers in her Throat are ſo well

amended as to give leave.

                Alſo divers others of the like Infections have happen’d

in my Practice, to the Diſadvantage, and ſometimes

Ruin, both of Nurſes and Children, the ſmalleſt

Species of the Diſeaſe being ſufficient many times,

eſpecially in Children, and other tender Conſtitutions

to infect either, by which means many Families have

been undone, who not knowing for a long time what

has ail’d them, and little dreaming of ſuch a Diſtemper,

or the poſſibility of getting it that way, have

been drill’d along in a miſtaken Courſe, till (when

too late perhaps) it has been diſcover’d that their Diſtempers

were Venereal.

                And ’tis not to be doubted, but that numbers of Perſons,

more eſpecially Children, are yearly deſtroy’d

in this City, by means of that Diſeaſe, notwithſtanding

they paſs in the Bills of Mortality for Fevers, Convulſions,

Conſumptions, Gripings in the Guts, Rickets, King’s-Evil,

Worms, Teeth, and the like; tho’ at the ſame time

it might be, that they died of thoſe Diſtempers, but

then too often cauſed by, and complicated with, the

Venereal Infection, ſo as juſtly enough to be term’d

Pocky Conſumptions, Pocky King’s-Evil, & c. and indeed

it is great pity poor innocent Babes, (they always

fairing the worſe under ſuch a Diſaſter) ſhould

be (as they too frequently are) depriv’d of their

Lives, and at beſt of their Healths, by the barbarous

Treatment of their polluted Attendants; who, tho’

they too well know before-hand what Diſtempers they

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have upon them, will, for the lucre of a little Money,

run the hazard of the Childrens Lives.

                And not only do Children become Sufferers by Wet-Nurſes,

but alſo by Nurſery-Maids, many of whom,

however paſſing for modeſt Perſons, have ſecret Venereal

Infirmities upon them, which they too often

communicate to the Children they lie with, whoſe

open Pores by Sweating, do attract thoſe infectious

Streams, and which has ſoon after appear’d, as I

have obſerv’d in ſeveral Children, either by breakings

out about the Body, Sore-Eyes, Swellings, or after

ſome other manner diſcovering it ſelf, ſo as not to be

doubted but that it is Venereal, and which for ſome

time perhaps has not been in the leaſt ſuſpected by the

Parents, to be what it has proved; for which reaſon

Parents can never be too careful what Servants they

take to Bed with, and bring up their Children, ſince

ſo many Miſchiefs by means thereof, have too demonſtrably

accrued; among ſeveral of which that I could

recollect,  I ſhall take notice only of one, that happen’d

but very lately, and is as follows, viz.

                A Nurſery-Maid that had the care of the two

youngeſt Children of an eminent Shop-keeper in this

City, committed to her, was one day obſerv’d by

ſome of the Family, to have divers Medicines in her

Trunk, as Pills, Electuaries, Powders, Balſams, &c.

and being ask’d what ſhe did with them? ſhe anſwer’d,

that ſhe always kept ſuch by her, in caſe any

illneſs ſhould happen to her, pretending that ſhe had great

skill in Diſtempers.  Some ſhort time after this, the

two Children ſhe attended grew ill, with loſs of Stomach,

being hot and feveriſh, and upon one of them

aroſe a ſwelling under the Ear, and in one of the Arm-pits,

which rendred it very froward; the other had

Sore-Eyes and Breakings-out in many places of the

Head, Face and Body, attended with a violent hot,

ſharp Humour upon the lower Parts; in ſhort, both

of them were ſo bad, that notwithſtanding the endeavours

of an Apothecary that was employ’d to adminiſter

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to them, they grew worſe and worſe; upon

which he adviſed them to a Surgeon, and mentioning

me, I was ſent for; when I was there, after inquiring

into their Conditions, ask’d what they had taken?

which, when I had been inform’d, and being what

was proper, told the Parents, I wonder’d thoſe attempts

ſhould prove fruitleſs, and that their Caſes

muſt needs be rebellious to reſiſt thoſe Medicines; beſides

it was ſomething unaccountable, that two Children

(who, as I was told, were ever till then very

healthy) ſhould fall ill, almoſt all of a ſudden, and

after ſuch a manner, and wiſh’d it was no hurt; upon

which they ask’d me what I meant by ſaying ſo? I

preſently enquired for the Perſon that attended them;

and ſhe that lay with them being in the Room, I

ask’d her how ſhe did, for that I ſuppos’d ſhe was

their Bedfellow, and whether ſhe had any Breakings

out, &c. ſhe immediately anſwer’d no, and that ſhe

lay with them, but for her part was as well as ever

ſhe was in her Life: So I ſaid no more, but after ordering

what they ſhould do at home for them, and

telling the Parents I would ſend what was neceſſary,

went away.  After I was gone, the Parents were uneaſie

at my Expreſſions, not knowing what I meant,

which the Servant that had ſeen the Medicines in the

Nurſery-Maids Trunk, obſerving, told her Miſtreſs

thereof, and ſaid, ſhe fear’d the Nurſery-Maid had given

the children ſome Phyſick that had done them harm;

upon this they immediately calls and asks her, but

ſhe poſitively deny’d it; but ſuſpecting ſomething of

the matter, would needs ſee her Trunk, wherein

among many Boxes and Pots, &c. they found a written

Paper of Directions for the taking of her Medicines,

and dreſſing her Sores in the Groins and other

Parts; and they remembring my words, ask’d her

what Diſtemper ſhe had? and ſent immediately away

for me.  When I came, I found them all alarm’d,

and after telling me what had occur’d, ask’d my Opinion;

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upon which, I told them plainly, I believ’d

their Children had got the foul Diſeaſe, but how they

came by it I knew not, unleſs by lying with the Nurſery-Maid. 

It was thereupon agreed that I ſhould

examine her, which accordingly I did, but ſhe with a

great deal of Confidence denied it, and not only ſo, but

that ſhe would make me prove my Words, but however,

the more ſhe denied it, the more I aſſerted it,

and what with urging her, threatning her, and telling

her I was ſure what I ſaid was true; ſhe began to

relent, and at laſt told me her Condition, and how

ſhe came by the Infection, but ſtill upon my promiſe

of Secrecy, and that I would intercede with her Maſter

and Miſtreſs for her, which I did, who after

ſome exclamations and ſharp reprimands, diſcharged

her of their Service.  This Creature had a Sore,

Scabby Head, which run much, had an Ulcer in

each Groin, and ſeveral Sores beſides, attended with

malignant Eruptions and Puſtules in ſeveral other

parts of her Body, which by lying between the two

Children, one of them about two, the other above

three years old, and Sweating often with Medicines

which ſhe ſaid ſhe took , muſt needs have convey’d

the Infection to them, and which, under God, I ſet

them free from, tho’ not without a great deal of difficulty,

and no ſmall time; but ſo deplorable were

their conditions, that I often fear’d the Succeſs, they

for a long time appearing to all, eſpecially one of them,

more likely to die than to live.

                A Child alſo of an Apothecary that was infected

by the naſty Slavering of a Pocky Servant-Maid that

attended it, it appearing in the child’s Mouth, which

was grievous Sore, I Cured; as alſo the Wenches

Ulerated Throat and Hoarſeneſs, which ſhe at firſt

call’d a Cold.  Being alſo reccomended to my Care

by her Maſter, who took, more compaſſion on her

than ſhe deſerv’d. But I ſhall not ſtand to enumerate

Inſtances here, intending to be more particular as I

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paſs along, and take notice of divers, where they may

pertinently be incerted.

                Many are the ways aſſign’d by Authors of the Propagation

of the Venereal Diſtemper, ſeveral of which,

(as I ſhall by and by mention) ſeem very abſurd and

irrational, and which I ſhould particularly here enlarge

upon, and ſhew the fallacy of, but for brevity ſake,

I having never in all my Practice, (which has been

none of the leaſt) obſerv’d any one Perſon really to

have gotten the Diſeaſe thoſe ways, tho’ I have made

the moſt exact Enquiry into ſeveral Patients, who (to

ſcreen their Guilt) have endeavour’d to amuſe me

therewith, tho’ afterwards confeſs’d the contrary:

Thoſe Authors aſſerting that the Diſtemper is to be gotten

by barely lying in the ſame Bed with an infected

Perſon, (of which I ſhall anon ſay more) or after ſuch

in the ſame Sheets, or by wearing their Cloaths, Gloves,

&c, or by ſitting preſently after them on the ſame

Cloſe-ſtool, or by Drinking out of the ſame Pot or

Glaſs immediately after them, or by receiving the

Breath of infected Perſons, by talking with them,

or the like, which tho’ nothing be more common, than

that the Patient to avoid the Shame and Diſgrace of

having gotten it by Copulation, will pretend, and

work ſome (eſpecially over-credulous or ignorant

People) into the belief of, and at the ſame time pleaſe

themſelves to ſee them impos’d upon, (as certain Matrons

which Gabriel Fallopius in his Book De Morbo Gallico,

cap. 10. takes notice of Scoffingly, who having the Venereal

Diſtemper, and willing to be accounted Chaſt,

would have it believed by their Phyſicians, &c. that

they got it by ſprinkling themſelves with Holy-Water,

which ſome Pocky Perſons had polluted) yet is what

Men skill’d in the Diſtemper can quickly ſee thro’

and detect; and indeed are ſuch ridiculous Fancies,

that I have often wonder’d any ſhould take up with

and believe them; for beſides my own Obſervations,

I never by all the Enquires I have made of Men of

Buſineſs, could learn that any of them ever met with

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one that really was infected thoſe ways; and the

more I have improv’d in the Knowledge of the Venereal

Diſeaſe, the more I have been convinc’d of the

impoſſibility thereof; for were ſuch a thing poſſible,

how univerſally would the Diſtemper be ſpread

how many hundreds, I may ſay thouſands, would be

daily in danger of getting it? and how few by this

time would have eſcaped it, I leave all Perſons to

judge? but the Reaſons thoſe Authors aſſign to maintain

their Opinion, are no other than what are eaſie

to be confuted, and indeed ſo weak and groundleſs,

as not worth Time and Pains to take notice of.