[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

From Entertaining Literary Curiosities, Consisting of Wonders of Nature and Art; Remarkable Characters; Fragments, Anecdotes, Letters, &c. &c. &c., by William Jefferson; London: Printed by J. G. Barnard, Snow Hill, for Crosby and Co. Stationers’ Court; 1808; pp. 13-22.

Entertaining Literary Curiosities.

Part II.  Strange Afflictions


An Account of Samuel Clinton, a labouring man, about 25 years of age, who often slept for several weeks together.

THIS CLINTON on the 13th of May, 1694, fell into a profound sleep, out of which he could by 14 by no means be roused by those about him; but after a month’s time he rose of himself, put on his clothes, and went about his business of a husbandmen as usual. From this time till the 9th of April, 1696, he remained free from any extraordinary drowsiness, but then fell into his sleeping fit again. After some days his friends were prevailed on to try what remedies might effect; and accordingly one Mr. Gibbs, an apothecary, bled, blistered, cupped, and scarified him, and used all the external irritating medicines he could think of, but all to no purpose. Victuals stood by him as before, which he ate now and then, but nobody ever saw him eat or evacuate, though he did both as he had occasion, and sometimes they found him fast asleep with the pot in his hand abed, and sometimes with his mouth full of meat. In this manner he lay till the 7th of August, which was seventeen weeks from the time he began to sleep, and then he awaked, put on his clothes, and walked about the room, not knowing he had slept so long, till going into the fields he found people busy in getting in their harvest, and he remembered that when he fell asleep, they were sowing their oats and barley. From this time, he remained well till the 17th of August, 1697, when he complained of a shivering, and a coldness in his back, vomited once or twice, and the same day he fell fast asleep again. Dr. Oliver (from whom this account is taken) went to see him, and felt his pulse, which was then very regular, he was in a breathing sweat, and had an agreeable warmth all over his body. The doctor then put his mouth to his ear, and called him as he could several times by his name, pulled him by the shoulders, pinched his nose, stopped his mouth and nostrils, but to no purpose; the man not giving 15 the least sign of being sensible. Upon this the doctor held a phial with sal-armoniac under one of his nostrils, and injected about half an ounce of it up one of his nostrils, but it only made his nose run, and his eye-lids shiver and tremble a little. Finding no success this way, the doctor crammed that nostril with powder of white hellebore, and waited for some time to see what effect it would produce, but the man did not discover the least uneasiness. The doctor then left him, fully satisfied that he was really asleep, and no sullen counterfeit as some people supposed. About ten days after, an apothecary took fourteen ounces of blood from his arm, tied it up again and left him as he found him, without his making the least motion all the while. The latter end of September Dr. Oliver saw him again, and a gentleman ran a large pin into his arm to the very bone, but he gave no signs of being sensible what was done to him. In this manner he lay till the 19th of November, when his mother hearing him make a noise, ran immediately up to him, and found him eating: she asked him how he did; very well, he said, thank God — and again she asked him which he liked best, bread and butter, or bread and cheese; he answered bread and cheese. Whereupon the woman overjoyed, ran down stairs to acquaint his brother of it, and both coming up again, presently they found him as fast a sleep as ever. Thus he continued till the end of January or beginning of February, at which time he awaked perfectly well, remembering nothing that had happened all the while. It was observed that he was very little altered in his flesh, only he complained the cold pinched him more than usual, and so 16 went about his business as at other times. — This Clinton lived at Tensbury, near Bath.

Philosophical Transactions.


TO ruminate or chew the cud is an action thought peculiar to some four-footed animals; but we have a remarkable instance in the Philosophical Transactions, of a ruminating man who lived at Bristol. — He would begin to chew his meat over again within a quarter of an hour after his meals, it he drank upon them; if not, it was somewhat later. This chewing after a full meal, lasted about an hour and a half; and if he went to bed presently after meals, he could not sleep till the usual time of rumination was over. The victuals upon their return tasted rather pleasanter than at first. Bread, meat, cheese, and drink, returned much of the colour as if they had been mixed together in a mortar. Broth and other spoon meats returned to his mouth all one as dry and solid food. The victuals seemed to him to lie heavy in his throat till they had undergone a second chewing, after which they would pass clean away; and he always observed, that if he ate a variety of things, what he swallowed first, came up again first to be chewed. If this faculty intermitted at any time, it portended sickness, and he never was well till it returned. When this account was given by Dr. Slare, the man was twenty years of age, and had been so affected ever since he could remember. His father sometimes ruminated, but nothing near so much as his son.

Newbury’s Wonders.



Lunatic Asylum, York, March 12, 1783.

ON the 25th of October, 1778, a sea-faring person, about 40 years of age, was recommended to the Lunatic Asylum for care. About two years before that time he had sustained a considerable loss by sea, which so operated upon his mind as nearly to deprive him of all his reasoning faculties. In this state he was admitted into the Asylum. When examined he could hardly be prevailed on to open his lips, and the very few words that he uttered seemed to come from him in heaviness and sorrow. During his abode in the Asylum he was never observed to express any desire for nourishment; and so grat was his inattention to this particular, that for the first six weeks he was obliged to be fed in the manner of an infant. Food and medicines were equally indifferent to him. A servant undressed him at night, and dressed him in the morning; after which he was conducted to his seat in the common parlour, where he remained all day with his body bent, and his eyes fixed on the ground. From all the circumstances of his behaviour, he did not appear to be in possession of any ideas of reflection; every thing was indifferent to him, and from the fairest judgment that could be formed, he was considered by all about him as an animal converted nearly into a vegetable. In this state of insensibility he remained till the morning of the 14th of May last, (a period of five years and six months) when upon entering the parlour, he saluted the recovering patients with a “Good morrow to you all.” He then thanked the stewards of the house in the most affectionate manner for their tenderness to him, of which he said he began to be sensible some weeks before, but had not till then 18 the resolution to express his gratitude. A few days after this unexpected return to reason, he was permitted to write a letter to his wife, in which he expresses himself with becoming propriety. At that time he seemed to have a peculiar pleasure in the enjoyment of the open air, and in his walks conversed with freedom and serenity. Talking with him on what he felt during the suspension of reason, he said his mind was totally lost, but that about two months before his return to himself, he began to have thoughts and sensations: these, however, only served to convey to him fears and apprehensions, especially in the night time, With regard to his medicinal treatment, I shall only observe, that the medicines usually prescribed for melancholy persons, were in his case studiously avoided, and instead of evacuants, cordials and a generous diet were constantly recommended. During the remainder of his stay in the Asylum, he continued to behave himself with steadiness and propriety. He ate, drank, and slept moderately, and upon all occasions showed a gentle and benevolent disposition.

Finding his mind sufficiently strong, he returned to his family on the 28th of May last. — Soon after this he was appointed to the command of a ship employed in the Baltic trade, in which service he is at this time engaged.


An Account of the Family at Wattisham, which has lately been afflicted with the loss of their limbs. — Published by Dr. Wallaston, of Bury, in Suffolk.

JOHN DOWNING, a poor labouring man, living at Wattisham, in January last, had a wife and six 19 children, the eldest a girl of 15 years of age, the youngest about four months. They were all that time very healthy, and one of them had been ill for some time before. On Sunday the 10th of January, 1762, the eldest girl complained, in the morning, of a pain in her leg, particularly in the calf of her leg; towards evening the pain grew exceedingly violent. The same evening, another girl complained of the same violent pain in the same leg. On the Monday, the mother and another child; and on Tuesday, all the rest of the family were afflicted in the same manner, some in one leg and some in both legs. The little infant was taken from the mother’s breast; it seemed to be in pain, but the limbs did not mortify: it lived a few weeks. The mother and the other five children continued in violent pain a considerable time, In about four, five, or six days, the diseased leg began to turn black gradually, appearing at first covered with blue spots, as if it had been bruised. The other leg of those who were affected at first only in one leg, about that time also began to be affected with the same excruciating pain, and in a few days the leg also began to mortify. The mortified parts separated gradually from the sound parts, and the surgeon had, in most of the cases, no other trouble than to cut through the bone, which was black and almost dry. The state of their limbs, at present, is thus: Mary, the mother, aged 40 years, has lost the right foot at the ancle; the left foot also is off, and the two bones of the leg remain almost dry, with only some little putrid flesh adhering in the same places. The flesh is sound to about two inches below the knee. The bones would have been sawn through that place, if she would have consented to it.


Mary, aged 15 years, both legs off below the knees. — Elizabeth, aged 13 years, both legs off below the knees. — Sarah, aged 10 years, one foot off at the ancle: the other foot was affected, but not in so great a degree, and is now sound again. — Robert, aged 8, both legs off below the knees. — Edward, aged 4 years, both feet off. — An infant, 4 months old, dead.

The father was attacked about a fortnight after the rest of the family, and in a slight degree; the pain being confined to his fingers. Two fingers of the right hand continued for a long time discoloured, and partly shrunk and contracted; but he begins now to have some use of them. — The nails of the other hand were also discoloured; he lost two of them.

It is remarkable, that during all the time of this misfortune the whole family are said to have appeared well in other respects, ate heartily, and slept well, when the violence of the pain began to abate. The mother is now emaciated, and has very little use of her hands. The eldest girl has a superficial ulcer in one thigh, and seems also ill. The rest of the family are pretty well. The stumps of some of them perfectly healed.

Annual Register, 1762.


Extraordinary case of a poor labouring man’s wife, in the parish of Dalinghoe, near Wickham Market, in Suffolk, named Mary Bradcock.

IN the severe winter, 1783, she was seized with a pain in most of her limbs, which she attributed to cold and rheumatism. When one day walking across the house, she tripped her foot slightly 21 against a brick, and was surprised to find her leg broken near the ancle. Before she was perfectly recovered from this accident, she became pregnant, and growing weak and infirm, was assisted by her husband in getting out of bed, when her left thigh bone snapped in pieces, without any other force than its own weight, falling against his back. She was safely delivered by an experienced gentleman of the faculty; after which her left arm was fractured near the shoulder, by putting it over an assistant’s neck to get out of bed. This likewise formed a callous, and grew well. She then found her right thigh bone broken as she lay in bed, very high up, near the hip, as it was also some time after lower down towards the knee. Her collar bone was likewise separated without any accident or violence; her right arm has met with the same misfortune, by only lifting a pint bason off a table. She now lies with the third fracture of her right thigh, which happened lately, from being gently raised in her bed, at or near the part by her knee before broken and calloused. The bones are permitted to grow together in an irregular manner, with the assistance of bathing, and bandage only, as an extension of her limbs would endanger breaking them into twenty pieces. So deplorable is this unhappy woman’s situation, that they dare not move her to make her bed, for fear of breaking her bones. She is thirty-two years old, of a delicate make, lax fibre, fair complexion, and pale brown hair; has had eight children, and always lived a sober temperate life, and never took medicines of the mercurial or any kind, but has generally enjoyed a fair share of health. There does not appear any evident cause of this singular phenomenon. Before the bones break she always complains of pain on the 22 very spot for several weeks, which keeps increasing till they snap, and then goes off in a few days, and the bones unite in five, six, or seven weeks. She has now a fresh pain seized one arm, that she expects will terminate in a broken bone. This poor woman had eight fractures within a year and a half, seven of which befel her in the last twelve months, and all without any external cause to attribute them to.

This case is attested by Mr. Samuel Thompson, of Charsfield, surgeon.

Universal Magazine, 1785.


Part III.  Survival Accounts

[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

Design, Corrections & Online Notes:
Copyright  © 2007 by Elfinspell