Rogues Gallery Uncovered
Hey Nonny its the Love Doctor - Dr Simon Forman
Queen Elizabeth and the handsome doctor walk side by side through the winding “lanes and closes” of Tudor London.
The doctor’s long, fur-lined gown displays his learning and status, the queen’s flimsy white shift and petticoat shows she has just got out of bed.
The couple pass a raucous group of laughing men from whose ranks emerges a tall fellow with a red beard.
The doctor recognises him as an impertinent weaver and is outraged when he not only addresses the elderly queen in coarse and familiar tones but then plants a kiss upon her virgin lips.
Taking her majesty by the arm, the gallant doctor escorts her down a secluded side alley where her white undergarments soon became splattered with mud.
The grateful queen looks coquettishly at her saviour “I will grant you a favour if you wait upon me sir” she purrs.
The doctor smiles and lifts her clothes above her waist, “If I make your belly bigger, your nightdress will no longer drag in the dirt,” he grins lasciviously.
The queen giggles - her thick white make up cracking and leans against him, hands roaming boldly.
As their faces come closer together the doctor prepares to kiss and dally with his new love, Elizabeth, queen of England.
Then he wakes up………”Bollocks!”
Dr Simon Forman groggily reminds himself to write down this erotic yet treasonous dream of over-age sex in his journal, before consulting astrological charts to see what his day has in store.
For a medical man, the influence of the heavens is more than simply an organisational tool it’s an important part of the diagnostic process.
How can one tell if unpleasant symptoms are the ague, the pox or the sweating sickness unless one first consults the positions of the stars and planets?
It’s complex scientific theory which is why most practitioners are university graduates and licensed by the College of Physicians.
As he tries to push aside arousing thoughts of a toothless, geriatric regent bucking beneath him like a bundle of dry sticks,
Forman ruminates upon how his medical career has taken a slightly different route.
True, he had been a scholar at Oxford but short of funds he had hired himself out as a servant to a dissolute and lazy rich boy who – being busy with wine, fencing, and girls – made so many demands on his time and energy that study was rarely an option.
With his sights firmly set on a practice of his own, Forman left college and spent years teaching himself the arts of astrology and medicine whilst working as an unhappy school teacher and itinerant labourer.
Without a degree or a licence, when he finally did set himself up as a physician, he often found himself embroiled in legal disputes which occasionally led to imprisonment.
As his reputation grew and the money started to roll in, he persevered with his vocation to use the latest advances in modern medicine to bring health to the suffering.
As he empties a clay pot of urine out of his bedroom window and into the street below, he ponders on just how far medical science has advanced since the days of Henry V.
Enflamed joints can now be eased by liberal applications of warm cow faeces.
Bald, barren heads can once more sprout luxuriant locks - but only if treated using a salve distilled from burnt dog excrement.
Even tooth ache can be cured by immersing one’s scrotum in vinegar (ladies, of course must firmly apply the small insects found under stones to the affected area)
Forman’s greatest medical triumph to date has been curing himself of the plague, which he believes he caught during a visit to the town of Ipswich.
Patients flocked to his surgery when they heard how he had tamed this normally fatal condition by drinking “Strong Water,” lancing the unpleasant buboes as soon as they appeared and only bleeding himself the once.
This was difficult as he has always been a powerful advocate of medicinal bloodletting.
As his thoughts return to the contents of his hose, Forman appreciates that it is with women he has had the most success – as an expert in fertility.
Medicinal scientists all agree that a mixture distilled from boiled potato root greatly increases the production of sperm while heightening libido and although Forman prescribes this remedy to many of his male patients, he takes a more “hands on” approach to conception when visited by a pretty young wife.
The man in street might allude to it plainly as “The Beast with Two Backs” or” Country Matters” but in his private journals Forman refers to his cure-all treatment for women in bastardised Greek as “Haleking” - a clever derivation of words for “Cock” “Horn” and “Bull.”
Dr Forman lost his virginity at twenty-nine which is practically middle aged - he thinks people over fifty are “Old Bodies.”
Immediately after the (very) happy event he resolved to make up for all those wasted years by “Haleking” anything with a pulse (whatever one of those is.)
During that year’s Christmas festivities, he was vigorously intimate with several women, drank to excess, and nearly fell off a high tower while trying to catch some pigeons.
His fellows appointed him “Lord of the Revels” which seemed wholly appropriate.
In the new year of 1583, he travelled from his practice in Salisbury to London where he celebrated with two ladies at once, “we lay there until we had spent all” he later wrote.
Returning to Salisbury, an unconsummated sweetheart from his teenage years by the name of Anne Young arrived at his surgery and asked him to look at her swollen leg.
The treatment was obvious and a combination of jolly reminiscence and cow pat poultices worked wonders.
Within a month they were “Haleking” regularly but still Forman could not resist the lure of London and its bawdy houses.
During one excursion he was nearly pressed into service by Sir Francis Drake as part of a military expedition to Portugal.
He managed to wriggle out of facing sword and musket but his joy was short lived when he discovered he had caught gonorrhoea.
As a medical man, he well knew that the most effective treatment for this inconvenient ailment of love was to wash ones “Yard” in a mixture of vinegar and white wine and adopt a routine of “Hard Pissing”.
This application of science meant he was “discharge free” when Dean Blague - a bachelor of Divinity at Oxford and a Dr of the same at Cambridge - walked into his practice accompanied by his red-haired slattern of a wife.
While Dean Blague was a gentle studious man, his wife was a slave to base desires.
She dressed provocatively, never gartered her hose, enjoyed drinking, song and dance, kept low company, and used lewd language. The couple wished Forman to consult the stars on their behalf but it didn’t need an astrologer to work out what would happen between the immodest wife and the “Halek Hungry” Doctor.
The infallible power of astrology however has its drawbacks, as it can easily come between a gentleman and true love.
When Forman met an attractive, lively girl in the street one morning he hurried home to cast a quick chart to find out if she would make him a good wife.
The astrology indicated she would indeed “be good entertainment” so he found out where she lived, bought a quart of wine and presented himself at her door.
All went well – another suitor turned up but was sent packing and even the girl’s mother invited him to stay for a meal of gammon and cheese.
However, when the smitten doctor consulted the stars again (possibly to find out which month the wedding should be) the new chart told him that if he married her she would probably behave like a whore, so he never saw her again.
So, now he’s back in his old ways, enjoying a long-standing affair with a married catholic woman named Avisa – heedless of the peril presented by both her marital status and her religion.
He’s also adding further pages to his extensive “Halek Notes” by servicing as many gentlewomen, sailors’ wayward wives, and prostitutes as he can find.
Avisa is pregnant at the moment which has not stopped Forman sleeping with her in the matrimonial home while her husband remains blissfully unaware.
Their relationship is volatile and they argue constantly, usually when Avisa suspects or finds evidence of his infidelity (such as another woman’s discarded apron.)
When she falls ill, her worried husband rushes to Forman’s door and asks him to prepare a special elixir to ease her discomfort.
This he does, but the stress is such that Forman prescribes himself some soothing “Haleking” - for purely medicinal reasons.
He takes one dose at 3pm with a woman named Anne, another at 6pm with someone he refers to only as “Ankers” and finally, to help him sleep, he enjoys a liberal application of a lady called Judith.
It is little surprise that when he awakes the next morning, he is so exhausted he forgets that he hung his sword next to the bed the night before, and nearly cuts off his finger.
He might regularly consult the stars, but he didn’t see that coming.
Forman’s astrology skills may have let him down this time but he later became famous for accurately predicting the day of his death in September 1611.
Despite being a hale and hearty 59 year old – which was a good age in those days - he assured his wife on September the 1st that he would die the following Thursday.
No one believed him until he took a rowing boat out on the Thames on that fateful day and dropped dead in the middle of the river.
If you want to find out more about him there’s a great book by Judith Cook called Dr Simon Forman – a most notorious physician, a link to which you can find in the show notes.
As well as his rampant shagging Forman was a remarkable man and his journals and notes give us a vivid glimpse into life in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.
Fans of “problematic playwright” William Shakespeare find Forman particularly interesting as in his notes he includes some first-hand accounts of performances of at least 3 of the bards plays from 1610 and 1611.
He saw Macbeth 3 times at the Globe, and also caught The Winter’s Tale and Cymbelineonce.
Sim bur leen
He wrote of seeing another play too but no one can be sure which it was.
Like most doctors Forman handwriting was atrocious and although he says he saw Richard II, his decipherable description of what he witnessed on stage bears absolutely no relation to the plot.
Maybe he was too busy with a “doll-commoner” round the back of the theatre and made up his own story.
Another Shakespeare connection is that Forman treated – and vigorously haleked - Emilia Lanier LAN EAR– England’s first female professional poet and the possible inspiration for the playwrights “Dark Lady.”
Forman’s name has also been connected to “problematic naval legend” Sir Walter Raleigh and his rumoured “School of Night.”
This was a supposedly secret society of scientist’s philosophers and poets who were joined in their practice of Atheism – a heinous crime in the 1600s.
Sir Cristopher Marlow was also said to be a member but the jury is still out over whether this group ever actually existed at all.
After his death, Forman was implicated in the “Overbury Poisonings” when the countess of Essex was accused of having her husband, Sir Thomas Overbury murdered in the Tower of London.
There’s probably going to be another episode sometime about Forman’s continuing exploits after 1595 – subscribe to the podcast to find out when that appears.
As Shakespeare himself once said “Always keep em begging for more”
Next time on Rogues Gallery Uncovered
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