Greatrakes, Valentine

, an empiric, whose wori r derful cures have been attested by some of the most eminent men of the seventeenth century, was the son of William Greatrakes, esq. and born at Affane, co. Waterforcl, in Ireland, Feb. 14, 1628. He was educated a protestant in the free-school of Lismore, until the age of thirteen, when his friends intended to have removed him to Trinity college, Dublin, but the rebellion breaking out, his mother took refuge with him in England, where he was kindly received by his great uncle Edmund Harris, brother to sir Edward Harris, knt. his grandfather by the mother’s side. After his uncle’s death he spent some years in the study of the classics and divinity under a clergyman in Devonshire, and then returned to Ireland, which was at that time in so deplorable a state that he retired to the castle of Caperquin, where he spent a year in contemplation, and seems to have contracted a species of enthusiasm which never altogether left him. In 1649 he entered into the service of the parliament, and continued in the army until 1656, when, a great part of the English being disbanded, he retired to his native country of Aflfane, and by the interest of the governor there, was made clerk cf the peace for the county of Cork, register for transplantation, and justice of the peace. At the Restoration all these places were taken from him, and his mind being disturbed partly with this disappointment, and partly for want of any regular and useful occupation, he felt an impulse, as he calls it, that the gift of curing the king’s evil was bestowed upon him and accordingly he began his operations, which were confined to praying, and stroking the part affected and such wonderful cures were effected, that he determined not to stop here. Three years after, he had another impulse that he could cure all kinds of diseases, and by the same simple remedy, which must be administered by himself. When however he pretended to some supernatural aid, and mentioned the Holy Ghost with irreverent presumption, as his assistant, he was cited to the bishop’s court, and forbid to take such liberties. This probably was the cause of his coming to England in January 1665, where he performed many cures, was invited | by the king to Whitehall, and his reputation spread most extensively. Even Dr. Henry Stubbe, an eminent physician, published a pamphlet in praise of his skill. Having failed in one instance, that of a Mr. Cresset in Charterhouse square, there appeared a pamphlet entitled “Wonders no miracles: or Mr. Valentine Greatrakes Gift of Healing examined,” &c. Lond. 1666, 4to. This was written by Mr. David Lloyd, reader to the Charter-house, who treated Greatrakes as a cheat. In answer to this, he published “A brief account of Mr. Valentine Greatrakes, and divers of his strange cures,” &c. ibid. 1666, 4to. This was drawn up in the form of a letter to the right hon. Robert Boyle, who was a patron of our physician, as was also Dr. Henry More, and several other members of the royal society, before whom Greatrakes was examined. To his cures we find the attestations of Mr. Boyle, sir William Smith, Dr. Denton, Dr. Fairclough, Dr. Faber, sir Nathaniel Hobart, sir John Godolphin, Dr. Wilkins, Dr. VVhichcot (a patient), Dr. Cudworth, and many other persons of character and reputation. The truth seems to be, that he performed cures in certain cases of rheumatism, stiff joints, &c. by friction of the hand, and long perseverance in that remedy; in all which there would have been nothing extraordinary, as the same is practised till this day, had be not excited the astonishment and enthusiasm of his patients by pretensions to an extraordinary gift bestowed upon him, as he insinuates in one place, to cure the people of atheism. When he left England or died is not known. Mr. Harris says he was living in Dublin in 168 1. 1

1 Biog. Brit, in art. Stubbs. Accouut of him, 1666, 4to. Harris’s edition of Ware’s History of Ireland.