This is the tale of the rise and fall of a gullible young woman who comes under the tutelage of a "quack," a practitioner of faith healing. Phillida firmly believes that she has the gift of healing and the reader finds herself wanting to warn her that she is about to unwittingly harm herself and others. The polemic against this form of medical charlatanism is only thinly veiled in the "art" of the romance form in which it is written. The plot itself is much less intriguing than the cast of characters Eggleston creates to expose the methods of late nineteenth century spiritual mesmerism as a means of public exploitation.


Although not a particularly well-written nor memorable work, this muck-raking novel contains significant elements for understanding the state of medicine in the 1880s in New York. It was still difficult to trust allopathic practices and consumers of health care were vulnerable to well-marketed alternatives. The Christian Science movement was in full swing, and from it charlatans had borrowed a system that could be used to dupe the credulous. In Eggleston's story the reader meets a wide variety of practitioners, including some examples of marginal allopathic physicians, that are useful to persons studying medicine's darker past.


First published: 1891



Place Published

Ridgewood, N.J.