Sue Young Histories

James Manby Gully 1808 – 1883

July 18, 2008

James Manby Gully 1808 – 1883James Manby Gully (MD Edin. 1829 LRCS) 1808 – 1883 Fellow of the Royal Physical Society, Fellow of the Royal Medico Chirurgical Society was an orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy, and he was well known for practising hydrotherapy, or the “water cure”. (*photo used courtesy of Homéopathe International by Sylvain Cazalet at PHOTOTHÈQUE HOMÉOPATHIQUE)

Along with his partners James Smith Ayerst, John Chapman, Walter R JohnsonJames Loftus Marsden, and James Wilson, founded a very successful hydropathy and homeopathic clinic in Malvern, Worcestershire in 1842, which soon became the top watering hole for the rich and famous,

James Manby Gully treated many notable Victorians, including such figures as Thomas Carlyle, Edwin Chadwick, Catharine Crowe, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, George Eliot, William Gladstone, George Hamilton Gordon, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Thomas Morecroft, Florence Nightingale, Charles Reade, John Ruskin, Nassau William Senior, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Samuel Wilberforce, and Queen Victoria as clients.

Ralph Barnes Grindrod, an allopathic physician who worked in Malvern as a hydrotherapist, wrote to the British Medical Journal on 12.10.1861 to express his surprise to see allopathic physicians turn up for treatment at Gully’s establishment, and to consult with Gully over ’difficult cases’, and to bring and send their own patients to see Gully, all the while protesting against homeopathy…

Ralph Barnes Grindrod mentions the following allopaths by name - Booth Eddison, the President of the British Medical Association (a patient of Gully’s), Benjamin Vallance of Brighton (President of the Medico Chirurgical Society, Surgeon at the Sussex County Hospital), Thomas Spencer Wells (President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England), John Addington Symonds of Bristol (Vice President and President of the British Medical Association), Robert Lee and Sutherland (?George Granville William Sutherland Leveson Gower 3rd Duke of Sutherland)

Ralph Barnes Grindrod wrote several times to the British Medical Journal to complain about the success of homeopathy in Malvern:

‘… dealings with homeopaths as water patients I have every hour of the day. Often ten out of twelve of the patients at my table are strenouous believers in homeopathy; not unfrequently homeopathic physicians place themselves under my care – but simply for the water treatment.

‘You cannot walk through the streets of Malvern, you cannot enter a house, nor visit a social party, in this famous watering place, without meeting a host of believers in homeopathy.

‘You can have but a limited idea of the extended influence of homeopathic belief in this place, and of the almost controlling power it exercises on professional advancement and medical success. He must indeed fight, as I have done, a hard battle, who would attain a successful position, and yet not be a homeopathist.

‘Now, sir, once and for all, I assert from personal knowledge, that the almost pervading influence of homeopathy in this place is mainly attributable to such individuals as Thomas Spencer Wells and others whom I have mentioned in my previous communication, and also to those ‘eminent metropolitan physicians still alive’ who advised Thomas Spencer Wells and others to place themselves under the care of a homeopathic physician…

James Manby Gully and Amos Henriques drew fire from the Allopathic doctors because of their conversion to homeopathy, which provoked moves to have their names removed from the list of Fellows of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society in 1851.

James Manby Gully was also a colleague of William Edward Ayerst, Hugh Cameron, John Chapman, Matthew James Chapman, Edward Charles Chepmell, Paul Francois Curie, William Vallancy Drury, George Napoleon Epps, James Epps, John Epps, James Manby Gully, Edward Hamilton, George Calvert Holland, Richard Hughes, Joseph Kidd, Thomas Robinson Leadam, Victor Massol, J Bell Metcalfe, Samuel Thomas Partridge, Henry Reynolds, John Rutherford Russell, David Wilson, Stephen Yeldham and many others.

James Manby Gully was a disciple of Vincent Priessnitz and he practiced hydrotherapy and homeopathy at Malvern for thirty years, retiring in 1872 (William Roughead, The Murderer’s Companion, (reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 30 Jun 2005). Page 25). He became a member of the British Homeopathic Society in 1848.

James Manby Gully was responsible for promoting the newly fashionable hydrotherapy in England, and because of his famous clients, for promoting this therapy in America too. He was one of the many bridges between our two countries.

James Manby Gully graduated in Edinburgh in 1829, so he may have attended lectures by Robert Knox. Gully may also have witnessed the execution of William Burke.

James Manby Gully was also a friend and supporter of David Dunglas Home and he was very interested in spiritualismArthur Conan Doyle records Gully’s presence at one of David Dunglas Home’s seances,

James Manby Gully 1808 – 1883
cartoonVanity Fair cartoon of James Manby Gully. Vanity Fair magazine was published weekly between 1868 to 1914. Vanity Fair caricatures, perhaps better known as Spy cartoons, both lampooned and praised eminent Victorian and Edwardian Politicians, Sportsmen, Lawyers, Judges, Royalty and other famous ‘Men of the Day’.

James Manby Gully was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a wealthy coffee planter. When he was 6 he was taken to England to attend school in Liverpool, then went on to the College de St. Barbe in Paris.

He became a medical student at the University of Edinburgh in 1825, as did Charles Darwin in the same year. After three years at Edinburgh, Gully became an externe at L’École de Médecíne in Paris, then returned to Edinburgh to take his MD in 1829.

Gully began his practise as a physician in London in 1830, and went on to write and translate numerous medical books and papers, becoming a Fellow of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London and a Fellow of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh. He edited the London Medical and Surgical Journal and the Liverpool Medical Gazette.

Gully showed an open interest in the dangerously radical idea of transmutation of species, and translated an evolutionary treatise on _Comparative Physiology_ by the embryologist Friedrich Tiedemann.

He was continually dissatisfied with the medical treatments of the time, and in 1837 met James Wilson who then spent some time on the continent and returned in 1842 enthused with the idea of hydrotherapy. The two set up a partnership and opened a “water cure” clinic at Malvern offering a regimen similar to that at Vincent Priessnitz’s Gräfenberg clinic.

In 1846 Gully published The Water Cure in Chronic Disease, describing the treatments available at the clinic…

The fame of the establishment grew, and Gully and James Wilson became well known national figures. Two more clinics were opened at Malvern

With his fame he also attracted criticism: Charles Hastings, a physician and founder of the British Medical Association, was a forthright critic of hydropathy, and Dr Gully in particular.

Dr. Gully’s patients at Malvern were woken at 5 am, undressed and wrapped in wet sheets then covered with blankets. An hour of later buckets of water were thrown upon the patients who then went on a five mile walk, carrying an alpenstock and a Gräfenberg flask of mineral water, stopping at wells for the waters.

They returned to the Malvern pump room for a breakfast of dry biscuits and water. They then had the day to spend bathing in a range of kinds of baths, or in some cases wore a wet sheet called the “Neptune Girdle” round their middle at all times, removing it only at meal times. Dinner which was always boiled mutton and fish was followed by a few hours in a dry bed.

The exercise, plain food and absence of alcohol together with the congenial company of other wealthy patrons proved generally beneficial…

Gully was an articulate and popular public speaker and writer. He was also a firm believer in a number of women’s causes. He advocated women’s suffrage, and preached temperance, due to the detrimental affects of alcohol on the husbands of many Victorian women.

Gully separated the sexes strictly at his clinics, as he believed that many female psychological complaints (depression, anxiety, hypochondria, hysteria) were due to the pressures Victorian women were under to be chaste, ambitionless, efficient, selfless givers, at the expense of their own mental well-being.

Gully believed in the value of homeopathic medicines, adding references to his positive experiences with homeopathy in later editions of his water cure book; stating that:

“It is well and wise to observe and investigate these things before laughing at them”.

Like many of his educated contemporaries both in the UK, and in the USA, Gully showed an interest in several popular movements of the day, such as women’s suffrage, mesmerism and diagnostic clairvoyance, and in later life he came to believe in spiritualism.

In 1872, he met a young woman named Florence Ricardo (later Florence Bravo). They became secret lovers. The following year, after travelling with Gully to Kissingen in Germany, Florence became pregnant. Gully performed an abortion. Thereafter, their relationship became purely Platonic.

Florence subsequently met and fell in love with Charles Bravo, whom she married in 1875. On hearing the news from a third party, Gully reportedly tore the letter to shreds. Just a few short months later, on April 18, 1876, Charles Bravo died of poisoning. The culprit was never discovered; Gully was a suspect, along with Florence herself, but although he testified at the inquest, nothing further came of the case. In 1923, Sir Harry Poland QC, who was involved for the crown in the case, stated that “Dr. Gully was in no way implicated”.

From William
Crookes photo of Florence Cook and James Manby
Gully ’… *Dr. J. M. Gully’s comments on recording Katie King’s pulse From ”The Proof Palpable of Immortality” by Epes Sargent. ** Dr. J. M. Gully, formerly of Great Malvern, England, a thoroughly experienced physician and a careful investigator, under date of July 20th, 1874, writes me as follows: ** “To the special question which you put regarding my experiences of the materialization of the spirit-form, with Miss Cook’s mediumship, I must reply that, after two years’ examination of the fact and numerous séances, I have not the smallest doubt, and have the strongest conviction, that such materialization takes place, and that not the slightest attempt at trick or deception is fairly attributable to any one who assisted at Miss Cook’s séances*…’ Photo by William Crookes

James Manby Gully wrote The Water Cure in Chronic Disease: An Exposition of the Causes, Progress and … , An Exposition of the Symptoms, Essential Nature and Treatment of Neuropathy or Nervousness, A Formulary for the Preparation and Medical Administration of Certain New … with François Magendie, A guide to domestic hydrotherapeia. The water cure in acute disease … , A Systematic Treatise on Comparative Physiology, introductory to the Physiology of Man with J Hunter Lane (also an editor of the _Liverpool Medical Gazette_) , A Monograph on Fever and Its Treatment by Hydro-therapeutic Means, The simple treatment of disease deduced from the methods of expectancy and … , The dangers of the water cure and its efficacy examined and compared with … _]( with [James Wilson](, [_The Practice of the Water-cure: With Authenticated Evidence of Its Efficacy … with James Wilson, Prospectus of the Water Cure Establishment at Malvern Under [their … with James Wilson, Lectures on the Moral and Physical Attributes of Men of Genius and Talent, Drawings, Descriptive of Spirit Life and Progress. By a Child, Etc., The Lady of Belleisle, Or, A Night in the Bastille a Drama in Three Acts: A … translated and adapted from Alexandre Dumas, and his biographies were written by Phyllis G Mann Collections for a life and background of James Manby Gully, M.D., Dr. Gully _by Elizabeth Jenkins. _

James Manby Gully also edited a version of Alexandre Dumas junior’s The Lady of Belleisle; Or, a Night in the Bastille: A Drama, in Three Acts, in 1872 (Alexander Dumas junior, James Manby Gully, The Lady of Belleisle; Or, a Night in the Bastille: A Drama, in Three Acts, (Lacy, 1872)).

Of interest:

William Court Gully 1835 - 1909, the second son of James Manby Gully and Frances Court, was Speaker of the House of Commons.

Charles Hastings’s son was a lawyer who was imprisoned for embezzling a client’s money…


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