I N T R O D U C I N G

“the polymath physician Henry Stubbe (1632–1676)”

author of one of the earliest appreciations
in English of Islam, and the first writer
on climate change to be published in
a scientific journal (1667)

During his lifetime, Stubbe was known as an accomplished scholar. Contemporaries such as Thomas Hobbes “much esteemed” Stubbe “for his great learning and parts,” while Anthony Wood noted that Stubbe was “admirably well qualified with several sorts of learning and generous spirit.” Henry Oldenburg, S.R.S., editor and publisher of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1667–8, described “that learn’d and inquisitive physitian, Dr. Stubbes” as a “curious and learned person” and “curious observer” whose Jamaican Observations were a “laudable Example [which] may both quicken and direct other Travellers in the Particulars, to be taken notice of in their Voyages.”

Stubbe’s interests & inquiries were wide-ranging, extending from clinical medicine to natural history & philosophy to cultural studies. A precocious Greek & Latin scholar, Stubbe worked on a Latin translation of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan and sided with Hobbes in his campaign against John Wallis, the Savilian professor of geometry at Oxford, before being drawn into “heavy political and religious pamphleteering” in the later 1650s, promoting a form of Interregnum republicanism which had a “posthumous influence” “continuing well into at least the second decade of the eighteenth century and probably beyond.” (J. R. Jacob, 6) Like the radical free-thinkers Charles Blount and John Toland before and after the Revolution of 1688–1689, Stubbe wished

to reduce, if not eliminate, the power of the clergy; to put in place of a clerically dominated Christianity a civil religion whose purposes would be secular, moral and political; to build a nation of virtuous patriots and soldiers rather than Christian believers obedient to clerical authority; and to sever science and learning from conventional Protestantism and attach them to the purposes of civil religion, the secular state and the people.

(James R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, Radical Protestantism, and the Early Enlightenment, Cambridge University Press, 1983, 164)

After the Restoration settlement of 1660, which Stubbe provisionally supported — “Although [Stubbe] embraced the monarchical Restoration, if not the ecclesiastical one, his adherence to monarchy was highly provisional and departed radically from Restoration orthodoxy.” (J. R. Jacob, 3) — the radical Independent and republican polemicist worked as a political pamphleteer for the Crown. In the early 1670s, Stubbe produced nationalist propaganda for the British government (among other things, justifying the Third Anglo-Dutch War, and the Declaration of Indulgence) before turning to “seditious discourses and printing and publishing unlicensed papers” relating to the heated controversy over the marriage between James, duke of York, and Mary of Modena, for which the state issued a warrant for Stubbe’s arrest.

Stubbe’s eclectic scholarly pursuits culminated c.1674 in one of the earliest appreciations in English of Islam — his scribal publication entitled An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism,

which expanded upon Edward Pococke’s tolerant and historicized view of Islam to include the prophet Muhammad as well. The work remained unpublished until the twentieth century, though it enjoyed a limited manuscript circulation.

(Mordechai Feingold, “Stubbe [Stubbes, Stubbs], Henry (1632–1676), author and physician,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Jan. 2008, n. pag.)

Although Stubbe’s manuscript on Islam was not printed until 1911, three excerpts from it appeared in print in 1693 and 1695, in letters by Charles Blount to the earl of Rochester (published twice), and to Thomas Hobbes. (Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: the Originall & Progress of Mahometanism, ed. and introd. by Nabil Matar, New York: Columbia University Press, 2014, 49)

To this day, his biographers depict Henry Stubbe as a “truly erudite and enigmatic person” (M. Feingold, n. pag.), one who defies easy categorization in 20th-century terms as either an anti-modern “Scholastic throwback” (in fact, Stubbe was an early experimental philosopher, active in the Oxford Circle of scientists who would later found the Royal Society; he received his medical training from the celebrated Oxford physician and natural philosopher, Dr. Thomas Willis; and he continued to be patronized by Robert Boyle, despite their growing ideological differences after 1669) or “an unprincipled turncoat who always sided with the winning party” (Jacob makes a persuasive argument that there is “continuity” between Stubbe, the young, radical don at Oxford in the 1650s, and Stubbe, the older, conservative royalist and churchman after 1660).

The Oxford antiquary, Anthony Wood, who knew him well, explained the enigmatic Stubbe — “the most noted person of his age that these late times have produced” — in terms of a flawed, imprudent character (outwardly symbolized by his red hair):

... He [Stubbe] was accounted a very good Physitian, and excellent for those matters that compleat it, as Simpling, Anatomy and Chymistry: and in the times of Usurpation, that is while Oliver and Richard [Cromwell] ruled, when then he thought it the Nations interest to subvert the true Monarchy of England, he was passionately addicted to the new Philosophy, and motion’d several ways for the introducing it amongst the Gentry and Youth of this Nation: and the reason was, as he saith, that it would render all the Clergy contemptible, lessen the esteem and reverence in the Church, and make them seem egregious Fools in matter of common discourse. But as he was so admirably well qualified with several sorts of Learning and a generous Spirit, so he was very unhappy in this, that he was extream rash and imprudent, and wanted common discretion to manage his parts. He was a very bold man, utter’d any thing that came into his mind, not only among his Companions, but in publick Coffey-houses, (of which he was a great frequenter) and would often speak his mind of particular persons, then accidentally present, without examining the company he was in, for which he was often repremanded, and several times threatned to be kick’d and beaten. He had a hot and restless head (his hair being carret-colour’d) and was ever ready to undergo any enterprize, which was the chief reason that macerated his body almost to a Skeleton. He was also a person of no fix’d Principles, and whether he believed those things which every good Christian doth, ’tis not for me to resolve. Had he been endowed with common sobriety and discretion, and not have made himself and his learning mercenary and cheap to every ordinary and ignorant Fellow, he would have been admired by all, and might have pick’d and choos’d his Preferment. But all these things being wanting, he became a ridicule, and undervalued by sober and knowing Scholars and others too.

(Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, 2 vols., 1691–2, 2.414–415)

Among those characterizing Stubbe as “Ridiculous, and void of any true honour, no way fit to regulate the Kingdom” was the chemical physician, Mary Trye (fl. 1662–75), who, like Stubbe, had practised medicine in and around Warwick before moving to London in October 1674. In her medical polemic defending “against the calumnies and abusive reflections of Henry Stubbe a physician at Warwick,” published in 1675, Trye disparaged the learned Stubbe as “our English Cicero” (Trye, 19), a “Sophister” (Trye, 41), “This great talker of Physick” (Trye, 62), and “This malicious disguiser” (Trye, 68) — in essence, accusing Stubbe of being a Medicus turned “Verbalist” and “Politicus” rather than a true “Medicinalist,” like herself:

But I confess, I admire this Medicus [i.e., Stubbe] as Cicero is said to be admired, more for his tongue then his heart; for I see his words and actions are as different, as a Frenchman’s words and his writings: Platonick Lover like, who is described by our English saying, to be one that is still saying Grace, and never falls to his Meat: He says well, if all that he says were true, And although he thinks he hath said enough, in saying, his Patients depose for their Cures; yet I am never the more convinced by that, unless he will tell me, when he will raise them up again; and that is a Prophetick inspiration, I fear this divine Physician is not yet Glorified with.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 123–4)

Elsewhere, she maligned his medical practice with dismissive references, tinged with racism, to Stubbe’s American experience:

And lastly he tels us [in his autobiography], he hath been his Majesties Phisitian in the Island of Jamaica, but that he did little service there, he owneth, being sick; This I am apt enough to believe, so that if he were His Majesties Phisitian, he was far enough off Him [the king], and I think he was rightly plac’d, and ’tis no great matter if he were sent there again, the place I am told being most fit for him.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 22–3)

Later, she slurs Stubbe as “this Quacking Parrot; and Chego Doctor” (Trye, 109) — an unfair assessment of the physician who bothered to report from Jamaica about the colonists’ blatant disregard for the lives of their West African slaves, the ones most often plagued by the small species of flea found in the West Indies and South America (Pulex or Sarcopsylla penetrans) commonly known as chigoe or jigger (also called Tons in Brazil, and Nigas by some Carib Indians, as recorded in Histoire Naturelle et Morale des Iles Antilles de l’Amerique [Roterdam, 1658], by Charles de Rochefort et al.). In another of his Jamaican reports published by the Royal Society, Stubbe documented the appalling state of health care for blacks in the Americas during the 1660s:

Of the Cirons or Chegos enough is said by Ligon [i.e., in Richard Ligon’s A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbados (London, 1657)]. I knew a man who burnt his Negro alive, because he was over-run with them. When they come among the nervous and membranous parts, they are very painful, and not to be pull’d out, lest your needle touch the nerves; and in other places the hole you cut, to take them out, equals a pease.

(H. Stubbe, “An Enlargement of the Observations ... by that Learn’d and Inquisitive Physitian, Dr. Stubbes,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 15 June 1668, 3.36, 706)

Not all Anglo-American slaveowners showed such blatant disregard for black lives, as documented at the end of the 17th century by the Royal Society in its printed adaptation of a letter from the physician and professor of botany in the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Charles Preston (1660–1711). Preston corresponded with both Hans Sloane (distinguished doctor and editor of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions from 1695) and James Petiver (a leading botanist, entomologist, and F.R.S.) in London. Three of Preston’s letters were published in the Royal Society’s journal, including his “Account of a Fætus, voided by the Ulcered Navil of a Negro in Nevis,” which records that, in at least this one case, “the Master of the Woman ... was willing to try all ways to save her Life”:

In the Island of Nevis, in the West-Indies, there was a Negro Woman belonging to one Captain Mead, who after one Year and halfs being with Child, was at the last, to a wonder relieved by the Navil, in this manner; about the 17th Month, the Woman being believed to be Hydropical, by reason of her passing her time so far, and of the great swelling of her Belly. Her Navil did begin to Swell and Impostumate, so that most People did believe she would dye by that. It did Tumifie and grow livid, so that the Surgeon was unwilling to meddle with it; but by reason of the Importunity of the Master of the Woman, who was willing to try all ways to save her Life, he was coming to open it, but in that time it did break of it self, and void some quantity of Ichorous Matter, and then leave off, but the Woman had some ease by it then; in about a Month more it did Impostumate again, to a far greater degree then before, whereupon, the Surgeon being sent for, he, where it did seem most Jetting out, which was the Navil it self, did lay it open with a large Lancet; and then, after voiding a great deal of thin Ichor and Matter, there did appear some Bones, which did startle him, not having seen the like before, and it did prove to be a Child, that the Flesh was decayed from, the which did stink much; but after the Extraction of the Bones, the Woman was easie, and in a little time the Woman did begin to Recover, she being very low, by reason of the great Burthen she had carried for a long time: She is now Recovered, and was alive about six Months ago, when I was in Nevis; and I was told by the Surgeon and several others, that she hath had a Child since, this can be asserted by several Persons of quality of that Island that are in Town, who have seen the Woman. This is all I can say of it at present, till my return to the West Indies, when, if any one desire to know more of it, I shall give them a larger account. This, Sir, is what I can say to what you did desire. I am
     Yours, &c.

(C. Preston, letter written c.1696–97, printed in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, June 1697, 19.229, 580–581)

Scientific interest in such medical curiosities, with case studies collected from around the world, is evident in the earliest issues of the Royal Society’s journal, and continued unabated. As to be expected, European researchers contributed to the growing debate over nature vs. nurture given impetus by 16th–17th century globalization. Perplexing issues relating to human identity took on new urgency with the institutionalization of slavery around the Black Atlantic, and studies in comparative anatomy mushroomed. For the most part, medical science was less interested in tending to black people, than in studying the phenomenon of blackness.

It is in this vein that we should interpret the “Account of a Negro-Boy that is dappel’d in several Places of his Body with White Spots” submitted to the Royal Society by the Anglo-American landowner, diarist, diplomat, and F.R.S. William Byrd (1674–1744), while Byrd was serving as agent for the colony of Virginia and residing in London (1697–1704). The urbane Byrd was typically conflicted about slavery, regretting the increase of black slaves in Virginia, yet adding to their number when he became part owner of a slave ship, the William and Jane, in 1697. That same year, Byrd published the following case study documenting a Virginia slave boy’s color change from all black to a mix of black-and-white, here associating what he perceives as the child’s advanced intelligence with his whiteness:

There is now in England, in the Possession of Captain Charles Wager, a Negro Boy, of about Eleven Years Old, who was born in the upper Parts of Rappahanock River, in Virginia: His Father and Mother were both perfect Negroes, and Servants to a Gentleman of that Country, one Major Taylor. This Boy, till he came to be Three Years Old, was in all Respects, like other Black Children, and then without having any Distemper, began to have several little White Specks in his Neck and upon his Breast, which, with his Age, have since been observed to increase very much, both in Number and Bigness; so that now from the upper part of his Neck (where some of his Wool is already turn’d White) down to his Knees he is every where dappel’d with White Spots, some of which are broader than the Palm of a Man’s Hand, and others of a smaller Proportion. The Spots are wonderfully White, at least equal to the Skin of the fairest Lady, and have the Advantage in this, that they are not liable to be Tann’d. But they are, I think, of a Paler White, and do not show Flesh and Blood so lively through them as the Skin of White People, but possibly the Reason of that may be, because the Skin of a Negro is much thicker. This Boy never had any Sickness, but has all along been very Sprightly and Active, and has more Ingenuity too, than is common to that Generation. His Spots grow continually larger and larger, and ’tis probable, if he lives, he may in time become all over White; but his Face, Arms and Legs are perfectly Black.

(W. Byrd, “Account of a Negro-Boy that Is Dappel’d in Several Places of his Body with White Spots,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, December 1697, 19.235, 781–782)

Evidence concerning the inter-changeableness of black and white skin color continued to accumulate. In 1709, the pioneering surgeon and F.R.S. James Yonge (1647–1721) — who spent 4 years in North America during the 1660s, and whose surgical innovations included the use of flaps in amputations, the use of suction in the delivery of a reluctant fetus, and the use of turpentine to control haemorrhage — included a rare “Account of an Unusual Blackness of the Face” (in a 16-year-old white girl) with his case study “of several Extra-Uterine Fœtus’s” for the Royal Society. Yonge documented his “matchless, and to me wholly new” experience of changing female phenotype as follows:

A Girl 16 Years old, a Daughter of Elizabeth Worth of this Town [Plymouth, England], had about the end of last April [1709] a few hot Pimples rise on her Cheeks, which Bleeding and a Purge or two cured. She continued very well ’till about a Month afterward, when her Face, so far as is usually covered with a Vizard-mask, suddenly turned black like that of a Negro. This surprizing Accident much amaz’d and frighted the Girl: especially after some foolish People persuaded her she was bewitch’d, and never to be cured: By Prayers, Exorcisms, and other Incantations they endeavoured to relieve and take off the Fascination [spell]; which proving ineffectual, the Passion and Terror of Mind encreased to a great degree, even to Distraction, and then they demanded my Assistance.
     By the Arguments I used, and some composing Anti-hysterical Remedies, the Violence of her Fits became much pacified. I also directed a Lotion for her Face, which took off the Discoloration, but it returned frequently, but with no regularity, sometimes twice or thrice in Twenty Four Hours, sometimes five or six times. It appears insensibly to the Girl, without Pain, Sickness, or any Symptoms of its approach, except a little warm Flushing just before it appears. It easily comes away, and leaves the Skin clear, and white, but smuts the Cloth that wipes it from the Face; it feels Unchious, and seems like Grease, and Soot, or Blacking mixt. It hath no Tast at all, which is to me very strange, that a fuliginous [sooty] Exsudation [sweat] should be insipid.
     She never had the Menses; is thin, but healthful; the Blackness appears no where but in the prominent part of her Face. There are a thousand Eye-witnesses to the truth of this Wonder; but I am not able to find, or conjecture the caused [sic] of it, nor have I ever heard of the like. I shall be glad to know your Opinion, and ready to make such further Enquiries as you shall please to send, in order to discover the cause of this dark and strange Phænomenon.

(J. Yonge, Letter to Hans Sloane, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Sept.–Oct. 1709, 26.323, 425–426)

Here, the variability of skin tone is cast as disease, in keeping with growing cultural anxieties over racialized identities. We have come a long way from the dramatic choice of elite white women, a century earlier, to appear in blackface in The Masque of Blacknesse (composed and performed 1605, published 1616) — a Twelfth Night entertainment at the court of James I, written by Ben Jonson, designed by Inigo Jones, and commissioned by Queen Anne who, along with her ladies, blacked up their faces, and their arms up to the elbow, in order to play the parts of “Nymphs, Negros’s; and the daughter of NIGER.”

In his Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours (1664), the celebrated experimentalist, physicist, and chemist Robert Boyle described black & white as interchangeable colors — a finding which Boyle knew was at odds with traditional notions “of their mutual Opposition” (R. Boyle, 94). Longstanding assumptions about black and white as binary opposites were pervasive in folklore. A classical proverb (from the Syrian satirist and rhetorician, Lucian) using blackness to prove “the impossible” was especially popular, and featured in Western art and advertising into the 20th century: Aethiops nin albescit (“The Ethiopian does not become white,” even with the most strenuous washing) and Aethiopem lavas (“You wash the Ethiopian,” to no avail). And the theme replays in an oft-quoted biblical text: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil?” (Jeremiah 13.23) Upon the death of the unlikable herald and politician Sir Edward Bysshe in 1679, a contemporary opined: “since I have for these many yeares without successe endevored his conversion to his duty and breatheren, and could never wash this blackamore into any other coler, I am I confesse very little moretifyed at his death.”

But proverbial certainties about the fixed nature of dark skin tones were being undermined long before Boyle and the new experimental science. Tales about pregnant women’s powers of imagination, capable of imprinting skin color on their children (a phenomenon then known as pica) hinted at an alternative narrative. E.g., Sir Kenelm Digby popularized the tale of

the Black Queen of Æthiopia, who was delivered of a white Boy, which was attributed to a Picture of the Virgin Mary with our Saviour Christ, which she had near the teaster of her bed, whereunto she bore great devotion.

(qtd. in George Hartman, The True Preserver and Restorer of Health ... Together with Excellent Directions for Cookery ... and Making All Sorts of Metheglin, Sider, Cherry-Wine, &c. With the Description of an Ingenious and Useful Engin ..., 1682, 310)

Plus, imaginative women had accumulated experience with cosmetics and other body arts (including tattooing) that could change skin color, sometimes permanently, and sometimes with unintended consequences (sc. a “fair” skin turned black, etc.). In a medical manual published at the end of the 17th century, Sir Kenelm Digby’s steward and editor, the chemist George Hartman, warned women readers that “There is an infinite store of Cosmetick Remedies amongst curious Ladies and others” that “are not safe but dangerous and hurtful.” In the section of his book giving recipes for “pomatums” (a scented ointment or oil for the skin or hair) which “nourishes, smoothens, softens and whitens the Skin,” Hartman cautions that:

The Magistery of Bismuth, Tinglass, Saturn, Lead and the Spanish White, have been in use for many years among Ladies; but they are absolutely to be condemn’d, and never to be used, by reason that all Cosmeticks prepar’d out of Metals or Minerals, thô they seem to whiten the Skin for the present, yet they will certainly make it black, as the Ingenious Monsieur Lemery tels you, in his Cours of Chimistry, in these words.
     The Magistery of Saturn or Lead having been wash’d and dry’d, is nothing else but a most subtilised Ceruse or white Lead. ’Tis used for a Paint or Fucus; but this Cosmetick as well as all others that are made with Metaline or Mineral materials, as Bismuth, Tinglass or Tin, very often make the Skin black after they have whiten’d it. He gives you the reason for it. Now, there is nothing better in the World for a White, than the Magistery of Pearls; and that which is made of the white Orient part of Oyster-shels, which is yet whiter and better, thô much cheaper. I will give you the Preparation of them as follows.

(G. Hartman, The Family Physitian, or a Collection of Choice, Approv’d and Experienc’d Remedies, for the Cure of Almost All Diseases Incident to Humane Bodies, whether Internal or External; Useful in Families, and Very Serviceable to Country People, 1696, 517)

And again:

Some [women] are content with the Water of Bean-Flowers, or the simple distill’d Water of Fumitory, or with the Water which bleeds from the sprout of a Vine cut in the Spring: But (says the said Dr. [sc. Thomas Willis, Stubbe’s mentor]) the more curious Women and pretenders to the most exquisite knowledge in the Cosmetick Art, are scarce satisfied with any Remedies for the Skin but Mercurial: But it is frequently observ’d (says he) that Men or Women using much Mercurial Remedies, become subject to the Vertigo, and Convulsive, or Paralitick effects, and that their Teeth turn black, and sometimes grow loose.

(G. Hartman, The Family Physitian, 1696, 522)

So not only a white woman’s skin, but also her teeth, could be turned permanently black with traditional “Cosmetick Remedies” intended to be skin lighteners. Alternatively, Hartman sold his own “safe” preparation of the recommended “Noble Cosmetick of the white Orient part of Oyster-shels” (“a thing of an incredible whiteness, far exceeding any White that can be made”) from his premises “at the lower end of Cherry-Garden-street near the Jamaica-house in Rotherhith” “for 2 s. 6. d. the ounce.” (G. Hartman, The Family Physitian, 1696, 524)

In such manner, early-modern iatrochemistry exposed age-old beauty biases reinforced by proverbial depictions of white & black as separate and unequal skin colors. But the new thinking about blackness did little to change our long, ignominious history of unequal medical care for African-Americans. In 17th-century Virginia, “the imoderate and excessive rates and prices exacted by practitioners in physick and chyrurgery” (language of the medical statute) for services and drugs were so out-of-control by 1639 that laws were passed to regulate the colony’s health care industry, and make it affordable for indentured servants, slaves, and the poor to receive skilled medical care. A subsequent medical-practice act enacted by the Virginia Assembly in 1645 observed that

It be apprehended by such masters who were more swayed by politick respects then Xpian [Christian] duty or charity, That it was the more gainfull and saving way to stand to the hazard of their servants then to entertain the certain charge of a physitian or chirurgeon whose demands for the most parte exceed the purchase of the patient....

(Act XV of the Virginia Grand Assembly, meeting March 1645–6)

This mindset on the part of “hard hearted masters” (language of the medical statute) who found it less expensive to let their servants die without medical attention, when the cost of treating a servant’s sickness exceeded his or her purchase price, was deeply ingrained. (Conversely, during the 18th century, the more enlightened British slaveowners in colonies like Virginia learned it was good business to look to the health of their slaves, and this kind of master would often send for a physician to see his slaves when for the same sickness in his own family he would hazard home remedies.)

Thus, Mary Trye’s dismissal of Henry Stubbe’s Jamaican clinical experience and interests reflected contemporary values, and would have been broadly accepted, even within iatrochemical circles.

Trye’s animus against Stubbe builds the more she scrutinizes “the Information Mr. Stubbe gives of his own Life,” especially in his “History of his Life, and what principles he is accomplished with,” wherein she discerns mostly “subtlety & hypocrisie” in a self-portrait that neglects mentioning “any of the worser part” (Trye, 20–3). Trye, a royalist, is clearly not convinced by Stubbe’s profession of innocence during the civil war years, hinting darkly at his complicity in the regicide:

He saith he was at school at Westminster, but 17 years of age, and a little Stature, when the KING was beheaded; Or rather (if he please) Murdered, and I am very glad to hear it was so; otherwise I should have thought ----.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 22)

and later pointing out that Stubbe “owns himself, he once deserv’d to loose his Head” (Trye, 125).

As a good monarchist, Trye acknowledges the “mercy of our good King [who] hath been so great as to pardon him” despite evidence of Stubbe’s “malicious principles, and ill nature” in raining “abuse [on] His Majesties servants, and sufferers,” including her own father. “It is much ingratitude, and no good return of such an Offender, to repay his Prince by persecuting and abusing his charitable and suffering Servants, raking them out of their Graves with falsities and envy,” opines Trye. As such, Stubbe’s actions seem to her at odds with his words. Stubbe dissembles, and only “seems to confess, beg pardon, and amend” for his services to the Commonwealth, as when justifying the political and religious propaganda he so skilfully created for his patron from the 1640s, the controversial Parliamentarian and great republican strategist Henry Vane, whose “understudied ideological legacy survived the débâcle of 1659 to influence the subsequent development of republicanism on both sides of the Atlantic” (R. E. Mayers, “Vane, Sir Henry, the younger (1613–1662), Politician and Author,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., May 2015, n. pag.). With relish, Trye repeats Stubbe’s lame excuses for the artful pamphleteering which, according to Anthony Wood, “palliated in print Sir Henry Vane’s wickedness”:

There being Quarrels between the Presbyterians and Sir H. V’s Friends, he [Stubbe] sided with his Patron Sir H. V. [i.e., Sir Henry Vane, executed after the Restoration of 1660 for having been a powerful republican leader during the Interregnum] His Retribution to his Generous Patron was, to promise him if ever he were able to serve him effectually, and this he says he did; who questions it, and wrote those so invidious Queries to terrifie the Presbyterians, but protests they contain no Tenents of his ----- So ’tis like he took that Task in hand as Cicero did his, to shew his Eloquence.
     Many other things of this nature he writes of himself, mentioning sometimes, a good deed, or two, he did among the rest; But I must desire the [curious] Reader, if he requires further satisfaction, to view his papers.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 22)

J. R. Jacob explains that, after 1660, Stubbe artfully concealed crypto-republican sentiments in a “rhetoric of double meaning” (necessitated by the new political climate of the early Restoration, which demanded outward allegiance to the established church and monarchy). Stubbe engaged in heated controversy with the Royal Society during 1668–72, opening the pamphlet wars in 1670 with four treatises,

“all excoriating the aims and work of the society as well as the learning of its propagandists.” (M. Feingold, n. pag.) According to Jacob, “Stubbe’s rhetorical duplicity” in these works sometimes confused readers like Mary Trye, who “was not certain what the ‘aims’ of” Stubbe’s attacks on chemical “Ingenuity” and the Royal Society truly were, although “she recognized that there was behind these attacks a ‘disguised design’” (J. R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, Radical Protestantism, and the Early Enlightenment, 162, 109, 196n185).

In his controversy with the Royal Society, Stubbe linked

scientific inquiry and the accumulation of knowledge to the progressive secularization and de-Christianization of society. His was a program for the radical reform of knowledge and society; theirs [propagandists for the Royal Society and the Chemical College of Physicians, dubbed the “Anti-Colledge of Pseudo-Chymists” by Stubbe], for the reform of knowledge alone.

(J. R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, Radical Protestantism, and the Early Enlightenment, 4)

Trye picked up on enough of Stubbe’s concealed messages to describe him as “not like a Schollar, a Physician, a Gentleman, or any thing that can be called ingenious; but rather some kind of Politicus, and so beneath my notice” (Trye, 128). She noted, for example, the rhetorical trickery behind his demagogic claim that “ingenious Scrutinies, and the conversation of such Societies [i.e., The Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge], is the way to introduce Popery” (Trye, 72). Stubbe knew full well such innuendo would ensure popular “opposition” to the new science and its institutions:

The Medicus at Warwick, whom I look upon to be a sole Verbalist; well knowing the Constitution of this Kingdome, by the experience he hath had under his Master Sir H. V. [Stubbe became Sir Henry Vane’s protégé while a pupil at the famous Westminster School (within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, in the City of Westminster, London), where the headmaster, Richard Busby, recommended him to Vane, who provided financial support for the boy at Westminster, and then at Christ Church college, Oxford] in the late times of Murder, and Rebellion; as well as by other satisfaction, and what a Bug-Bear the name of Popery is to the Generality of the common people; and how ready Unanimously they will be to catch at a thing that sounds of that, and to oppose any thing that hath but the least colour of the Religion, or letter of the Name; although they know not why nor wherefore, (though they may have reason) but follow Tradition like their Tutor the Verbalist.
     The Medicus being well assured of this; as well knows, he shall be sure to procure at least this advantage to his disguised design; that the common people will quickly hearken to his Bell, and applaud his goodness; let it be what it will, though to their own destruction, so long as it bears the gloss of a papall prevention: He thus begins to Tinckle, the consequence of the Royal Society, Experiment, Ingenuity, the most laudable and commendable, Nay, absolute necessary improvement of Knowledge is dangerous, and the Fore-runner of Popery....

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 79–80)

Trye is also concerned that “because he speaks so very passionately, and as positively” Stubbe will command an audience for his “Scurrility, Railings and Abuses”: after all, “we know how oftentimes, many Men have great Learning, and come to be famous in Repute, and yet not be able to Cure Diseases so well as Physicians of less esteem.” (Trye, 112, 127, 117) In medicine, she thinks, professional status should be tied to clinical outcomes. Thus, Trye offers Stubbe “my medicinal Tender” and challenges him to a duel “by Experiment” (Trye, 125, 95):

And to sum up my Challenge to M. Stubbe, thus I say, That I will Cure any of these Diseases before-named; and more, those that he cannot, if it be in the power of natural means to relieve them, (for I hope he will not tender me impossibilities.) And that all things may be certainly proposed in few words, to ascertain the method and course of this Challenge, Mr. Stubbe shall have the first refusal and experiment of such of these Diseases, and so many Patients as he shall choose to himself; and those that he cannot recover in such a reasonable time as shall be by judicious and proper Physicians thought fit, I will: To this purpose the Battel may be set in order; And to this offer I challenge Mr. Henry Stubbe a Physician at Warwick.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 122–3)

Furthermore, if Stubbe

thinks it not above him, but will come to an experimental Tryal, let a judicious way and method be propos’d for it, (if not that I have mention’d) ... And I will also, before our Engagement in every disease, discourse him therein, and give a rational and proper account of the same, and when I have so done, I will Cure the Disease, and allow his odds, &c. (if desired) as I have before expressed: for he shall find me principl’d with Queen Elizabeths Motto, semper eadem [always the same].
     And whether this be not a fair and civil proposal, I demand the Judgement of every ingenious Reader.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 127)

Trye was clearly worried that the crafty Stubbe would refuse “this fair end of our Phlebotomical and Chymical dispute” since he had already refused “his Friend O Dowdes [Trye’s father] proffer ... when he offer’d to Cure any Disease, with the best Professors of his Gang, for Five Hundred pounds.” (Trye, 126, 123). Anticipating a similar outcome in her own case, Trye counters:

Now I return to my Chymical Vindication, and to tell Mr. Stubbe, that it rests much upon him to come to an experimental Essay: And that I may aggravate him the more, I will acquaint him with what he would willingly (no doubt) be ignorant of; and that is, the sick Patients are dissatisfied, because he will not justifie what he dares invent and publish: He brags he is a great Schollar, and hath arriv’d to the period of Learning, if so, let him evince that excellency, since its denied: and if those Persons and Medicines he decries as contemptible, excell and surpass all his knowledge, where doth the odium fall? He accuseth the ingenuity and Royal promotion of this Age, as that which infringeth and bears upon his interessed Physical Profession; and such attempts, though never so necessary and profitable to the Universe, ought to be consulted by opposition and diminution of its growth and fertility; Yet if the Innovation, as he terms it, of this Royally ingenious Age, be found more serviceable and available, more real and beneficial to King and People, then other more private interests, though more ancient pretences: what would this Incendiary drive at? ... unless Mr. Stubbe will accept my offer, I conceive Alchymical Medicines, and the Medicinalist, are thereby unfetter’d, and free’d from his desir’d Bondage.... But if he thinks to avoide this just Charge, and the true merit of his Doctrine, by Scurrility, Railings and Abuses (because I see he is so apt, right or wrong, to abuse living or dead) and so think to hide his Errors, and cloud the truth by such degenerate means shifts.
     I shall then conclude that course to be not like a Schollar, a Physician, a Gentleman, or any thing that can be called ingenious; but rather some kind of Politicus, and so beneath my notice: And I doubt not, but all Men will count him Ridiculous, and void of any true honour, no way fit to regulate the Kingdom.
     Yet if this should prove the Case, I will not forsake him; But am resolv’d to beg that leave, which I believe I shall not be denyed; And he shall be sure then to receive that Return and Reply I have reserved for him: And more then that, I will with the Astrologer, once a year imploy my Printer.
     Last of all, if he looks upon it to be more Prudent and Physical to remain scornfully Silent, I cannot say further.

(M. Trye, Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, 1675, 124 and 127–8)

And neither did Stubbe, although some new-found prudence of character had little to do with it. At this point in his career, Stubbe had nothing to gain from engaging in medical theatrics with Mary Trye. By 1675, Stubbe’s war with the Royal Society as an expression of covert radicalism was over. To further his critical and reformist agenda — promoting “a paganizing naturalism and secular historicism which fundamentally challenged any form of orthodox Protestantism and which put in its place a civic religion which harked back to Selden, Harrington and Hobbes and looked forward to the Enlightenment” (J. R. Jacob, 163) — Stubbe turned next to Islamic history.

Stubbe’s MS., An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism (written sometime after 1671), presented Mohammed’s “prophetic monarchy” — where “civil order came directly from priestless religion which eliminated wealth and poverty and produced a toughened, virtuous citizenry ready to accomplish difficult and useful tasks” (J. R. Jacob, 125) — as a model for contemporary monarchs such as Charles II, describing Mohammed as

an enlightened despot, tolerant, efficient, charitable, socially and economically egalitarian, the inspired leader of a powerful and prosperous empire whose policies were to be admired and emulated.

(J. R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, Radical Protestantism, and the Early Enlightenment, 125 and 127)

There is no way to know what new works were then being contemplated by one of the 17th century’s most talented political pamphleteers. A year after publication of Trye’s Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician, Stubbe died.

Late in the evening on 12 July 1676, while riding from Bath to Bristol to attend a patient, and ‘his head being then intoxicated with bibbing, but more with talking, and snuffing of powder’ ... Stubbe drowned in a shallow river 2 miles from Bath. He was buried two days later in St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Bath, with his old adversary Joseph Glanvill [Glanvill’s Plus Ultra (1668) was one of the public-relations texts promoting the nascent Royal Society that provoked the science wars of 1670–1] preaching an indifferent funeral sermon. The fate of his papers appears to have concerned the government, for his study was immediately sealed and the bishop of London was expected ‘to appoint a person to inspect the papers for dangerous papers state and church’....

(Mordechai Feingold, “Stubbe [Stubbes, Stubbs], Henry (1632–1676), author and physician,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Jan. 2008, n. pag.)

 

**  N O T E  **    Additional excerpts from Mary Trye’s Medicatrix, or, The Woman-Physician (London, 1675) are to be found in the webessay on Mary Trye (fl. 1662–75) — chemical physician, medical reformer, and early promoter of evidence-based health interventions.
     Thomas Tryon documented the brutality of women slaveowners in his Friendly Advice to the Gentlemen-Planters of the East and West Indies in Three Parts (1684). For more on this, see the appendix on Thomas Tryon’s A Dialogue Between an East-Indian Brackmanny or Heathen-Philosopher, and a French Gentleman Concerning the Present Affairs of Europe (1683) for the entry first posted 9 May 2014 (with ongoing updates) to this website’s What’s Blooming news page.