An altogether eccentric 18th century medico. Messenger Monsey 1693-1788.

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Messenger Monsey 1693-1788, an English eccentric

Messenger Monsey was the son of Robert Monsey the Rector of Bawdeswell in Norfolk (All Saints Church was destroyed by a crashing Mosquito on 6/11/44. It has been rebuilt in a neo-georgian style). He studied medicine in Norwich under Sir Benjamin Wrench and qualified in 1723. He set up in Bury St Edmunds where he practised much as Benjamin Gooch did in Norwich. He started a cottage hospital there before Gooch and Fellowes did the same in Shotesham.
He was called to attend Earl Godolphin who had been taken ill on a journey to Newmarket races. He recommended himself so well by his skill and by his wit that Godolphin persuaded him to come to London, obtaining for him the appointment as physician to Chelsea Hospital. He remained in this post until his death at the age of 95.

He acquired political and literary connections, treating his patrons with ostentatious familiarity. Sir Robert Walpole once asked him how it was that no one but Monsey ever contradicted him. He quarrelled with everybody and was involved in several law suits, corresponding with his old friend Benjamin Gooch about them. He gave instructions that his body should be dissected and the remains thrown into the Thames.

The Dictionary of National Biography says "he took savage delight in his old age in receiving the expectants who were waiting for his appointment at Chelsea hospital on his demise and who had come to inspect the place. The terrible old man (as he was known) used to prophesy to each that he would die before himself, and in most cases his prediction proved true".

He used to extract his own teeth. He would tie a strong piece of cat gut round the offending tooth and thread the other end through a hole in a bullet. A gun was charged, the bullet placed inside and then shot out, pulling the tooth with it. He complained that it was difficult to persuade his friends and patients to follow his example.

Though fifteen years seperated their ages Gooch and Monsey became firm friends. They stayed at each others houses when visiting London or Norfolk. One hundred and twenty eight sheets of letters written by Gooch to Monsey survive in the British Library (photocopies may be seen in the Thomas Browne Library at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital). They contain accounts of interesting cases, references to the health of themselves and their families, Gooch offers to stand surety for his friend in one of his endless law suits, he asks him to have a 'single' bed ready for his next trip to London, he reports on the progress of the new hospital in Norwich. There are tales of the pain and exhaustion due to his urinary stones, about his accident and of the special invalid coach lent by Fellowes.

There is an exellent account of Monsey's life in Robert Ketton-Cremer's "Norfolk Portraits".

Benjamin Gooch
Norfolk & Norwich Hospital Early Days
Gooch's Family

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