Item Details

Stephen Freeman of Antigua and London: A Respectable Rosicrucian

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2015)

Journal: Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jrff.29628


Until recently, Stephen Freeman (1739–90) was known only as the most obscure of a group of quack doctors attacked by James Makittrick Adair in Medical Cautions for the Consideration of Invalids. Adair’s censure is severe, and sufficiently absurd to be dismissed as hyperbole. However, the current author’s recent rediscovery of an apparently singular survival of Freeman’s reply, Strictures on Adair’s Bath Medical Cautions, demonstrates that while Adair’s description of Freeman as an indentured blacksmith in Antigua who abandoned his family to be supported by the parish is unkind, it is not entirely inaccurate. Freeman’s pamphlet is doubly remarkable as a rare autobiography by a poor and unwilling emigrant to Antigua, and as a memoir of a quack seeking to refashion himself as a reputable physician. In Antigua and London, Freeman relied on strategies commonly used by the rising middling classes to improve financial and social status: He established advantageous family connections, pursued a prestigious career, and joined a variety of societies, including freemasonry, which he may have been introduced to in the West Indies. Strictures is preeminently a documented narrative of Freeman’s struggle to construct and defend his respectability. His, however, is a cautionary tale, and ultimately none of the strategies he employed brought him the regularity and respectability he sought.

Author: Susan Mitchell Sommers

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References :



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