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An essay by Alexander Pope

The Grand Elixir

Title:     The Grand Elixir
Author: Alexander Pope [More Titles by Pope]

There is an oblique way of Reproof, which takes off from the Sharpness of it; and an Address in Flattery, which makes it agreeable though never so gross: But of all Flatterers, the most skilful is he who can do what you like, without saying any thing which argues you do it for his Sake; the most winning Circumstance in the World being the Conformity of Manners. I speak of this as a Practice necessary in gaining People of Sense, who are not yet given up to Self-Conceit; those who are far gone in admiration of themselves need not be treated with so much Delicacy. The following Letter puts this Matter in a pleasant and uncommon Light: The Author of it attacks this Vice with an Air of Compliance, and alarms us against it by exhorting us to it.



"As you profess to encourage all those who any way contribute to the Publick Good, I flatter my self I may claim your Countenance and Protection. I am by profession a Mad Doctor, but of a peculiar Kind, not of those whose Aim it is to remove Phrenzies, but one who makes it my Business to confer an agreeable Madness on my Fellow-Creatures, for their mutual Delight and Benefit. Since it is agreed by the Philosophers, that Happiness and Misery consist chiefly in the Imagination, nothing is more necessary to Mankind in general than this pleasing Delirium, which renders every one satisfied with himself, and persuades him that all others are equally so.

"I have for several Years, both at home and abroad, made this Science my particular Study, which I may venture to say I have improved in almost all the Courts of Europe; and have reduced it into so safe and easie a Method, as to practise it on both Sexes, of what Disposition, Age or Quality soever, with Success. What enables me to perform this great Work, is the Use of my Obsequium Catholicon, or the Grand Elixir, to support the Spirits of human Nature. This Remedy is of the most grateful Flavour in the World, and agrees with all Tastes whatever. 'Tis delicate to the Senses, delightful in the Operation, may be taken at all Hours without Confinement, and is as properly given at a Ball or Play-house as in a private Chamber. It restores and vivifies the most dejected Minds, corrects and extracts all that is painful in the Knowledge of a Man's self. One Dose of it will instantly disperse itself through the whole Animal System, dissipate the first Motions of Distrust so as never to return, and so exhilerate the Brain and rarifie the Gloom of Reflection, as to give the Patients a new flow of Spirits, a Vivacity of Behaviour, and a pleasing Dependence upon their own Capacities.

"Let a Person be never so far gone, I advise him not to despair; even though he has been troubled many Years with restless Reflections, which by long Neglect have hardened into settled Consideration. Those that have been stung with Satyr may here find a certain Antidote, which infallibly disperses all the Remains of Poison that has been left in the Understanding by bad Cures. It fortifies the Heart against the Rancour of Pamphlets, the Inveteracy of Epigrams, and the Mortification of Lampoons; as has been often experienced by several Persons of both Sexes, during the Seasons of Tunbridge and the Bath.

"I could, as farther Instances of my Success, produce Certificates and Testimonials from the Favourites and Ghostly Fathers of the most eminent Princes of Europe; but shall content myself with the Mention of a few Cures, which I have performed by this my Grand Universal Restorative, during the Practice of one Month only since I came to this City."

Cures in the Month of February, 1713.

"GEORGE SPONDEE, Esq; Poet, and Inmate of the Parish of St. Paul's Covent-Garden, fell into violent Fits of the Spleen upon a thin Third Night. He had been frighted into a Vertigo by the Sound of Cat-calls on the First Day; and the frequent Hissings on the Second made him unable to endure the bare Pronunciation of the Letter S. I searched into the Causes of his Distemper; and by the Prescription of a Dose of my Obsequium, prepared Secundum Artem, recovered him to his Natural State of Madness. I cast in at proper Intervals the Words, Ill Taste of the Town, Envy of Criticks, bad Performance of the Actors, and the like. He is so perfectly cured that he has promised to bring another Play upon the Stage next Winter.

"A Lady of professed Virtue, of the Parish of St. James's Westminster, who hath desired her Name may be concealed, having taken Offence at a Phrase of double Meaning in Conversation, undiscovered by any other in the Company, suddenly fell into a cold Fit of Modesty. Upon a right Application of Praise of her Virtue, I threw the Lady into an agreeable waking Dream, settled the Fermentation of her Blood into a warm Charity, so as to make her look with Patience on the very Gentleman that offended.

"HILARIA, of the Parish of St. Giles's in the Fields, a Coquet of long Practice, was by the Reprimand of an old Maiden reduced to look grave in Company, and deny her self the Play of the Fan. In short, she was brought to such Melancholy Circumstances, that she would sometimes unawares fall into Devotion at Church. I advis'd her to take a few innocent Freedoms with occasional Kisses, prescribed her the Exercise of the Eyes, and immediately raised her to her former State of Life. She on a sudden recovered her Dimples, furled her Fan, threw round her Glances, and for these two Sundays last past has not once been seen in an attentive Posture. This the Church-Wardens are ready to attest upon Oath.

"ANDREW TERROR, of the Middle-Temple, Mohock, was almost induced by an aged Bencher of the same House to leave off bright Conversation, and pore over Cook upon Littleton. He was so ill that his Hat began to flap, and he was seen one Day in the last Term at Westminster-Hall. This Patient had quite lost his Spirit of Contradiction; I, by the Distillation of a few of my vivifying Drops in his Ear, drew him from his Lethargy, and restored him to his usual vivacious Misunderstanding. He is at present very easie in his Condition.

"I will not dwell upon the Recital of the innumerable Cures I have performed within Twenty Days last past; but rather proceed to exhort all Persons, of whatever Age, Complexion or Quality, to take as soon as possible of this my intellectual Oyl; which applied at the Ear seizes all the Senses with a most agreeable Transport, and discovers its Effects, not only to the Satisfaction of the Patient, but all who converse with, attend upon, or any way relate to him or her that receives the kindly Infection. It is often administered by Chamber-Maids, Valets, or any the most ignorant Domestick; it being one peculiar Excellence of this my Oyl, that 'tis most prevalent, the more unskilful the Person is or appears who applies it. It is absolutely necessary for Ladies to take a Dose of it just before they take Coach to go a visiting.

"But I offend the Publick, as Horace said, when I trespass on any of your Time. Give me leave then, Mr. Ironside, to make you a Present of a Drachm or two of my Oyl; though I have Cause to fear my Prescriptions will not have the Effect upon you I could wish: Therefore I do not endeavour to bribe you in my Favour by the Present of my Oyl, but wholly depend upon your Publick Spirit and Generosity; which, I hope, will recommend to the World the useful Endeavours of,


"Your most Obedient, most Faithful, most Devoted,
most Humble Servant and Admirer


"***Beware of Counterfeits, for such are abroad.

"N.B. I teach the Arcana of my Art at reasonable Rates to Gentlemen of the Universities, who desire to be qualified for writing Dedications; and to young Lovers and Fortune-hunters, to be paid at the Day of Marriage. I instruct Persons of bright Capacities to flatter others, and those of the meanest to flatter themselves.

"I was the first Inventor of Pocket Looking-Glasses."

[The end]
Alexander Pope's essay: Grand Elixir