Why did George Berkeley like tar water so much?

George Berkeley Read more from
Chapter The Enlightenment Period

Some biographers claim that George Berkeley suffered the constant discomforts of constipation over his entire life, until finally, in late middle age, he found lasting relief in tar water, which is an extract of tree bark. The following appears in A Century of Anecdotes from 1760–1860, by John Timbs.

“Bishop Berkeley having received benefit from the use of Tar-Water, when ill of the colic, published a work On the Virtues of Tar-Water”; and a few months before his death, a sequel, entitled “Further Thoughts on Tar-Water”; and when accused of fancying he had discovered a nostrum in Tar-Water, he replied, that, “to speak out, he freely owns he suspects Tar-Water is a panacea.”

Sir Hugh Seymour Walpole preserved the following epigram on Berkeley’s remedy: “Who dare deride what pious Cloyne has done? The Church shall rise and vindicate her son; She tells us all her bishops shepherds are, and shepherds heal their rotten sheep with tar.”


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