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“No one can conceive the agony, the unutterable sorrow I was plunged into” – Charles H. Hassall, ‘herbalist’

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 8 December 2017

The herbalist ‘doctor’, Charles H. Hassall F.S.Sc. was born in Stoke in 1848, and in his youth he lived with his grandfather, who was himself a herbalist.  As a boy Charles lost both his sight to some inflammation, and his hearing in his left ear, and partly lost hearing in his right ear.  The interview in The British Deaf-Mute does not tell us if it was known exactly what caused that, but at any rate it was not permanent and he eventually regained hearing in his right ear, and his vision.

Abraham quotes a pamphlet by Hassall on ‘Care of the Eyes’ where he explains his loss of sight:

A physician was consulted who professed to know all about it and prescribed accordingly, with the result that soon the inflammation rapidly spread to the other eye, still he continued to see and proscribe until I was completely dark-blind as it is called.  He then very coolly gave up the case as hopeless, so I was to be blind through all my earthly life for all he seemed to know or care.  No one can conceive the agony, the unutterable sorrow I was plunged into – an earnest, energetic mind just beginning to enquire and expand suddenly checked and held back in chains of darkness.

[…] I then consulted another Doctor.  This gentleman had weak and sore eyes and felt for me; he soon opened the closed pupils so that I could see like the man whose eyes Jesus opened and said that he could “see men as trees walking.” (p.188-9)

Abraham tells us that some twenty-seven or twenty-eight years earlier, Hassall “had the rare and happy experience of being able to restore the speech of a young girl, with a a mixture of oils and various other ingredients.

He went to work for a Dr. Garner in Staffordshire, but to the disappointment of the doctor, Hassall was determined to follow the herbalist path rather than what he termed the allopathic (p.189).  ‘”Well Hassall,” said the Doctor after one of his argumentative conversations, “seeing that you are determined to make a name as a herbalist I would advise you to get a case or two and demonstrate your theories.’

Abraham gives him the title of ‘doctor’ and says Hassall ‘had obtained many diplomas’ including The General Council of Safe Medicine Limited (Incorporated), London; The National Association of Herbalists of Great Britain; The Society of United Medical Herbalists of Great Britain; The British School of Eclectic Medicine; The British Association of Eclectics and Medical Botanists; The Medical Herbalist Defence Union Limited; The International Association of Medical Herbalists (p.189).  One of these must be The National Institute of Medical Herbalists and it would be interesting to see if there are any archival records of him.  The proliferation of diplomas and claim to use the title ‘doctor’ smacks of a desperation for legitimacy, but today we might term him a quack.

He moved to Farnworth, Bolton, in 1881, which is probably where Earnest Abraham met him, when Abraham was a missioner there.  He expanded his premises from 78 Peel Street to include 76 and 80.  By 1911 he called himself a ‘Pharmacy Proprietor’ on the census, rather than ‘herbalist.  Hassall died in Bolton in 1923.

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3093; Folio: 88; Page: 25; GSU roll: 6098203

1911 Census -Class: RG14; Piece: 23256

E.J.D.A. [Ernest Abraham], Charles H. Hassall, The British Deaf Mute, 1895-6, Volume 5 p.188-9

[I contemplated whether or not I should write about Hassall, but as Ernest Abraham interviewed for The British Deaf-Mute I think we can cover him, and though his hearing loss was partial he is an interesting example of nin-standard 19th century medicine.]

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