No. 4, November 2006

‘Doctor Panurgus’

  Click the image to enlarge it The subject of this extraordinary sheet is perhaps in essence a 'complaint on the times', a satire of universal folly in which a tripartite division of the realm into Cuntry, Citty & the Court is symbolised, respectively, by rude Rusticall being purged by the doctor on the close-stool, spruce master Cittyzsinne standing behind the Doctor, and the Gallant (i.e courtier) whose head is just entering the subliming furnace. But as the young man, prey to multifarious follies and devoted to fashionable fads and fancies, has long been the target of the moralists’ especial wrath, and the saeva indignatio of the satirists, the follies of dissolute youth are what I take to be the principal subject of this puzzling sheet which, as Griffiths notes, ‘has a complicated ancestry’. 1

The costume of the figures would seem to date to the 1620s, and this agrees with the known dates of activity of the engraver, Martin Droeshout, who has signed the sheet with his monogram: MD sculpsit. The earliest state of the present print to survive, however, was probably issued in the 1650s, bearing Peter Stent’s imprint alone, and is held in the Wellcome Institute collection. 2

The composition derives from a print engraved by Matthaus Greuter, probably c.1600 (itself deriving from one of the emblems in the de Brys’ hugely influential Emblemata Saecularia of 1596), which was issued in French/German and German-only editions, the former bearing the title Le medecin guarissant Phantasie Purgeant aussi Par drogues la folie [The doctor curing fantasies, and also purging folly with drugs]. But Droeshout made significant changes to his model, dropping the doctor’s assistant, adding a richly-dressed couple, an inset panel in which two pluralists confront each other weighed down by the churches on their shoulders, and a great deal of explanatory text in the form of labels within the image-frame.

Naming the wonder-working doctor Panurgus seems to have been Droeshout’s innovation. Why? It is unlikely Droeshout had read Rabelais – most English intellectuals knew only the French author's name, which they used, like those of Aretino and Macchiavelli, merely as a hate-word. Panourgia is a medical term, and Galen uses it for ‘adulterated or false drugs’, and although the etymological sense of the name is neutrally ‘all-work’, later English usage similarly tended to interpret the term pejoratively as ‘ready to do any work’, i.e. including illegal things, as a criminal would be. Notwithstanding this, however, there is no doubt that in our print Dr. Panurgus is a positive figure, able to cure his patients, who come from all ranks of society - as the verses and the figures themselves make clear – of their manifold follies. Significantly, for dating purposes, the Latinate form of the name – which by itself suggests independence of Rabelais’ creation - is known to have been used by two English writers in 1619 and 1623 only, and perhaps strengthens the case for an origin in the 1620s. 3

From the copious inscription text I excerpt a few salient points.

Though concentrating on the foibles and follies of the gallant, who is by definition youthful, the verse makes clear that the Millions who resort to the Doctor come from Cuntry, Citty & the Court – i.e. that folly is no respecter of a person’s rank or origins. By his Waters Drugges ,Conserves & Potions, the Doctor purgeth fancies follies, Idle motions, many of which are detailed in the verses below the image, but also visualised in the phantasmagoria that escapes from the Gallants Fornace. The Doctor is currently pouring a dose labelled Wisdome and Understanding down the throat of a rude Rusticall who sits on a close-stool and through whom passe various animals and birds, including an ass, which is being milked by a man (in the German original only three little fools are excreted). The Doctor informs us that taking the Gallants Braine out and washing it had proved ineffective, but now, subliming his head in the furnace has yielded good Successe - in the form of the Strange Chimaera-Crotchetts visible in the smoke above. They are later referred to as both Projects and ayrie Castles - i.e. ‘castles in the air’, cf. from Burton’s contemporary Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): That castle in the ayr, that crochet, that whimsie 4 - and include cards, dice, backgammon-board, tobacco-pipes, violin, tennis, masks, feathers, plumed hat, swords, a dressed ape, a woman with a fan, a man teaching a horse to perform tricks, a bear-baiting, a boy flying a kite, a man with wings strapped to his shoulders (attempt at human flight? No Elizabethan/Jacobean candidate known to me, though doubtless they existed – for a while...), a man sliding down a rope from the tower of (Old) St. Paul’s (a popular contemporary feat), jug and goblet, limed branch for bird-catching, a man walking a pair of hounds, and a fencer (with wings). Most of these are copied from the German original – the interest for us lies chiefly in those which were not, and which we may thus reasonably consider peculiarly English: they include the bear-baiting, the tobacco-pipes, 5 the St. Paul’s rope-slider and the horse being taught tricks - perhaps intended to be William Banks and his celebrated horse ‘Marocco’. 6

To the well-dressed lady with her fan and pet squirrel on a lead the Doctor says,

Once (faire) I knew the tongues Phlebotomie
Had powre to Cure your Sexes Maladie
But now youre manly humors boile so highe
That you must in the Gallants Fornace lye

which looks like a swipe at both the garrulity traditionally attributed to women, as well - interestingly - as evidencing a more contemporary Jacobean concern with manly women, as reflected for instance in the pamplet, Hic Mulier: or, The Man-Woman: Being a medicine to cure the Coltish Disease of the Staggers in the Masculine-Feminines of our Times (1620). The verses claim she has even more wandring Crotchets than the gallant and lists them:

Steelettoes 7 girdles patches painted brests
Points 8 powders feathers washes 9 & the rest
... Haire breath Complexions all are borrowed ware.

The similarly well-dressed gentleman the Doctor addresses mockingly as Sir Briske, spruce master Cittyzsinne, in which the last, clearly eccentric spelling is presumably to point up a pun, as if he embodies the City’s sin. 10 Though, like his lady, he looks more like a courtier than a tradesman – which has led to much complicated historical speculation, principally that the pair are the Countess of Essex and her lover the Earl of Somerset - the contemporary label identifies one of the ingredients of the potion the Doctor will administer as plaine dealing, and one of the things it will expel as couzening weights. But perhaps it is precisely part of this upstart citizen’s presumption that, though a mere tradesman, he apes the dress of the gentry. In the probably contemporary sheet, The Common Weales Canker Worms or the Locusts both of Church, and States, the Merchant similarly says, I cosen these foure [i.e the four preceding characters] and his inset emblem is a pair of scales and a yardstick with the motto, libris et labris lucror furtiuis [I gain by fraudulent scales and measures], while in the verse beneath the engraving, he says, Ile ease your purses with a trick of skill/While mine with waights & measures false I fill.

Inset into our engraving is a panel – seemingly not a later addition - depicting two divines confronting each other, both with churches on their backs which cause them to stoop, and one of whom carries a second church in his arms. It is tempting to suggest that the square frame in which these pluralists are depicted, and which appears to interrupt the composition, is a post-Droeshout interpolation, perhaps c.1642, when the motif was current (and which is also the earliest known date of Peter Stent’s activity as a print-publisher). 11

It is captioned

Who bore two Churches & complaind of none
Nowe being purged findes too much of one.

If this pluralists panel is original, however, we can certainly point to the existence of the iconographic motif this early, for it features prominently in The Mappe of the Man of Sinne issued in 1622. Indeed, it might provide a useful dating indication for the Panurgus print, as the Nowe of the caption perhaps suggests some topical ecclesiastical legislation.

There may well be a 'quotation' from Doctor Panurgus in a print issued some fifty years later entitled The Committee; or Popery in Masquerade (1680), which will feature in this series in a future month. This holds up the various nonconformist sects for ridicule, including the Quakers; they are depicted as constituting a committee listening to petitions from a dog, a horse, a man and a woman. To the left, the various victims of the Civil War appear in chains, while on the right, a Church of England priest is forced to vomit forth his living - a detail which may well owe something to the fact that its designer, Sir Roger L'Estrange, the most effective of the Tory propagandists at this period, was also the Restoration censor, and in that capacity had personally accorded Doctor Panurgus his imprimatur eight years earlier; indeed, the present impression (one of only two known) is signed and dated by him, Licensed October 28 1692, Ro. L'estrange.

British Museum 1854,1113.154. Dimensions of original: 348 mm x 408 mm


Antony Griffiths, The Print in Stuart Britain 1603-89 (London, 1998), pp. 146-8 (no. 91). Back to context...
This is based on the fact that it does not appear in his first, 1654 advertisement, but is listed in that of 1662 as One plat of Dr. Pennargus. Griffiths was thus mistaken in thinking the British Museum’s impression – in a state of 1672 – is the only one known. Back to context...
Just about everything known about Rabelais ‘reception’ at this period will be found in A.L. Prescott, Imagining Rabelais in Renaissance England (New Haven, 1998), especially pp. 86-102, ‘Quicksilver Interlude: Panurge and Panourgia in England’, though Droeshout’s use of the name is missed. Back to context...
I. iii. i. ii. (1651 ed.), p. 187 (cited in Oxford English Dictionary s.v. castle); H. Jackson (ed.), Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (London, 1972), p. 394. Back to context...
These first two, interestingly also figure together in the Itinerary of the German visitor, Paul Hentzner, writing in 1598, who notes in his description of bear-baitings that ‘At these spectacles, and everywhere else, the English are constantly smoking the Nicotian weed, which in America is called Tobaca... and generally in this manner: they have pipes on purpose made of clay’ – cited in W.B. Rye, England as seen by Foreigners in the Days of Elizabeth and James the First (London, 1865), p. 216. Back to context...
See J. Bondeson, The Feejee Mermaid and other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History (Ithaca, 1999), pp. 1-18. Banks and Marocco performing are the subject of a woodcut illustrating Maroccus extaticus (1595). Back to context...
i.e. daggers, not high heels! Back to context...
laces. Back to context...
for the complexion. Back to context...
The same equivoque occurs, for example in Dekker's Lanthorne and Candle Light (1608), sig. C2, in the court of Hell, The Cittizen is sued here and condemned for the Citty-sinnes (and Jonson, Poetaster (1601), II.i.122, Citi-sin). In relation to brisk , note also OED’s definition of this sense 3 of the word: ‘smartly or finely dressed; spruce’, and three citations only, for the period 1590-1603. Back to context...
Later uses of the motif include two tracts published in 1642, Purge for Pluralities, shewing the unlawfulnesse of men to have two Livings, Or, The Downe-fall of Double Benefices, and A Remonstrance against the non-residents - Milton referred to The non-resident and plurality-gaping Prelats [Milton, Works (1851 edition), vol. 3, p. 307, cit. OED s.v. non-resident] in his Apollo Smectymnus published in the same year. It is also to be found on at least two single-sheets issued in 1681, The Protestant Mirrour, in proper Postures and Principles: Or, The Careful resident, and the Careless Non-Resident, and Non-residency and pluralities, justly exposed: or, The Pluralist and non-resident honestly and truly characterized. Back to context...