Homeorizon News
Home  >>  Homeorizon Base  >>   History of Medicine  >>  Biographies  >>   Life of Dr. Clarke

Life of Dr. Clarke

Homeopathic Journal :: Volume: 5, Issue: 1, Nov 2011 (Centre Stage)   -   from Homeorizon.com
Author : Sue Young, MCPH, PG Homeopathy,Member of the Society of Homeopaths
View Profile
Rate Article:
  Share with Friends
Post Comment
View Comments [2]
Read its Issue
Print This
Article Updated: Dec 01, 2011

John Henry ClarkeJohn Henry Clarke 1853-1931 was a British orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy to become a consultant at the London Homeopathic Hospital and the editor of The Homeopathic World for twenty nine years.

John Henry Clarke was also the publisher of The British Guardian.

John Henry Clarke was a student of Edward William Berridge, and he taught many lay homeopaths, including J Ellis Barker, Ephraim Connor, Edward W Cotter, John DaMonte, Thomas Maughan, Noel Puddephatt, Phyllis M Speight, Edwin D W Tomkins, Canon Roland Upcher, Frank Parker Wood, and he was a colleague ofEdward Bach, Marjorie Blackie, James Compton Burnett, Robert Thomas Cooper,James Douglas Kenyon, Percival George Quinton, Thomas Skinner, John Weir,Charles Edwin Wheeler, and many others.

In 1905, John Henry Clarke heavily criticised the medical homeopaths for the lack of adequate training in homeopathy and he began to train lay practitioners, and to raise funds for a Professorship in Homeopathic Therapeutics in memory of James Compton Burnett. The British Homeopathic Association set out to meet the challenge of John Henry Clarke's criticisms. John Henry Clarke dedicated his book Homeopathy Explained to the British Homeopathic Association,

As a teacher at the London Homeopathic Hospital, Clarke taught Marjorie Blackie. Hemet regularly with James Compton Burnett and Robert Thomas Cooper. Clarke himself was trained by Edward William Berridge.

John Henry Clarke was a permanent secretary of the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis.

At the turn of the century there were four distinct though entangled threads emerging in UK homeopathy. They were the Cooper Club, the increased use of nosodes, the influence of James Tyler Kent and the general decline of medically qualified practice, which coincided with the rise of the lay practitioner... The second main phase of British homeopathy was undoubtedly the main figures of the Cooper Club... four distinguished homeopathic doctors used to meet regularly and were to have a major influence on its future.

These were Thomas Skinner, Robert Thomas Cooper, James Compton Burnett and John Henry Clarke... They met and dined weekly and shared their notes and experiences over a period roughly from 1880 to 1900... This group also continued to meet after the deaths of Robert Thomas Cooper and James Compton Burnett.

And, after the death of Thomas Skinner in 1906, John Henry Clarke continued the tradition by maintaining vigorous links with other major British homeopaths and by having regular meetings for the discussion of new ideas and of cases.

These meetings continuing after 1906 were with a select band of people who were in effect tutored by John Henry Clarke in all aspects of homeopathy. This also took place outside the British Homeopathic Society, with which John Henry Clarke more or less severed all contact after 1908. It also included several people who were medically unqualified amateur practitioners.

This group included Noel Puddephatt, Canon Roland Upcher and J Ellis Barker, who, as proteges of John Henry Clarke, soon became important torch bearers for the movement well into the twentieth century... I have not yet seen any material evidence that the other members of the Cooper Club taught non-doctors, but they may well have done so in secret.

It would not be surprising considering that John Henry Clarke despised the rest of his profession as traitors of homeopathy in general and of British working people in particular.

John Weir and Charles Edwin Wheeler were also members. One suspects thatEdward Bach, James Douglas Kenyon, Percival George Quinton and several others were also members, and taught lay persons, though there is no direct evidence and an air of secrecy shrouds the group. The Club continued to meet into the 1930s under John Henry Clarke and Charles Edwin Wheeler...

Several key features of these doctors need emphasising. They were fiercely opposed to orthodox medical practice and made a point of castigating that system at every opportunity. Not only did they castigate it, but for the usual reasons of using suppressive, dangerous drugs which did not treat the whole person and which were unsafe and productive of only illusory change in shifting symptom patterns rather than true cure. These are the same reasons that all homeopaths have used to criticise allopathy, even from Samuel Hahnemann's day.

These blistering attacks upon orthodoxy were mainly delivered by James Compton Burnett and John Henry Clarke and usually poured forth from the pages of The Homeopathic World , which they edited between them at various times between 1870 and 1931. It is as if they took their cue from Samuel Hahnemann himself and so felt duty bound to 'show their mettle' by continuing a sabre rattling tradition of such attacks. As it was, the two 'camps' became utterly battle hardened and staunchly opposed, as they have remained throughout most of this century.

John Henry Clarke was a busy practitioner. As a physician he not only had his own clinic in Piccadilly, London, but he also was a consultant at the London Homeopathic Hospital and researched into new remedies - nosodes.

From How I became a homeopath , John Henry Clarke wrote:

"Perhaps it may not be uninteresting to reader if I state at the outset of how my own conversion to homeopathy came about. As is usually the case, I knew nothing whatsoever about homeopathy when I took a degree in surgery, since it is rarely mentioned by professors in the ordinary medical school, and then only to be misrepresented.

After my graduation as a western medical doctor at Edinburgh Medical School, by the advise of the late Angus Macdonald (one of the best friends I ever had), I took a voyage to New Zealand in charge of emigrants.

On my return, having fixed on Liverpool as a likely field in which to start practice, I asked Angus Macdonald to introduce me to some of leading doctors in that city. This he promised to do, and eventually he did - I have the letter to this day.

They were never presented, for the reasons which will be appreciated. The relatives with whom I was staying happens to be a homeopath, and they suggested that I might do worse then to go to Homeopathic Dispensary at Hardman Street, Liverpool and see what was being done there.

As the letter came not, by way of utilizing my time I went. Like Caesar, I not only 'went', but I 'saw', " but here the parallel ended - I did not conquer; instead homeopathy conquered me!

I may say that at this period, having absorbed over 80% (if marks go for anything) of the drug lore Sir Robert Christian had to impart, and having had sufficient opportunity for testing its value in practice, I had come pretty near the conclusion of Oliver Wendell Holmes saying, "If all drugs were cast into the sea, it would be so much better for man and so much the worst for the fish."

I believed then (and belief has become rather fashionable since) that the chief function of a medical man was to find out what was the matter with people - if he could; and supply them with common sense - if he happened to posses any. With duty to treat people; to cure them was out of question; and it would be the better for honesty if he made no pretense to it.

After few weeks of observation at the Liverpool Homeopathic Dispensary, a case was presented to me in private. A small boy of five, a relative of my own, was brought to me by his mother. Two years before, he had been badly scratched on the forehead by a cat, and when the scratches healed, a crops of warts appeared on the site of them, and there they remained up to that time in spite of different treatment by allopathic doctor.

As an allopath I could do no more than he, so I turned to homeopathy to see if that could help me. I consulted the authorities, and found that the principal drug which is credited to producing crops of warts is Thuja Occidentalis.

I ordered this, more by way of experiment than expecting much result; but I said, if there was truth in homeopathy, it ought to cure. In a few days improvement was manifest; in three weeks the warts were al gone. Rightly or wrongly I attributed, and still attribute the result to Thuja, through it will no doubt be said that charms have done the same way.

Very well, I'd say one will give me a system of charms that I can use with precision and produce with such definite effects, I shall be very glad to try it. As it was, I concluded that if homeopathy could give me results like that, homeopathy was the system for me.

Yours faithfully

Dr J.H. Clarke, Liverpool, England.

John Henry Clarke... established himself as a very successful and highly influential London homeopath in the 1870s. But he 'fell out' with figures likeRichard Hughes and Robert Ellis Dudgeon, who controlled the movement, to such an extent that all offices became closed to him, except the editorship ofThe Homeopathic World, which he retained to the end.

He left the British Homeopathic Society in disgust, c1900, never to 'return to the fold.' He thus became a powerful 'loose cannon' and effectively divided the movement.

This was so for two main reasons:

Firstly, he was wholly disenchanted with the direction English homeopathy had taken. He disliked the way it eventually failed to continue challenging allopathy or winning many new converts to its dwindling ranks - especially after 1900.

And it seemed to lack the will for a good fight. It simply 'gave up' in his view and came to occupy an all too cosy niche within Victorian society, conveniently devoting itself to serving solely the rich upper classes.

The second point is connected to the first: he started to teach laypersons all about homeopathy [e.g. Canon Roland Upcher, Noel Puddephatt and J Ellis Barker], towards whom many of his books were directed, and he became increasingly convinced that its future lay with them rather than with servile doctors who had 'sold out' to allopathy.

This very radical viewpoint turned out to be an astonishingly accurate premonition, really, as subsequent history has shown.

Single handedly, by the 1920s, John Henry Clarke had created a completely divided movement, composed of doctors on the one hand, and lay practitioners on the other. And it was mainly the latter who carried British homeopathy forward throughout the dismal 1930s, 40s and 50s, their light never dimming.

Yet the two strands had little contact with, and only contempt for, each other. Even in the 1960s, homeopathy was still very much a ridiculed medical minority and deep in the doldrums.

Not until the late 70s did it start taking off again, and that was mainly due to the lay revival, not to any action on the part of the doctor homeopaths - who, in fact, never lifted a finger to promote homeopathy.

And why should they? From their lucrative London practices in Harley Street and Wimpole Street?

It is quite true that Clarke was a typical early century right wing fascist and an anti Semite, which does not endear him to anyone today. How weird, therefore, that he formed such a fruitful allegiance with J Ellis Barker, who was a (radicalMarxist) left winger?

J Ellis Barker was handed the editorship of The Homeopathic World in the spring of 1932, just after John Henry Clarke died, and this brilliantly stage managed act caused great ripples of embarrassment to flow through UK homeopathy; a pervasive horror, really, that this prestigious position hadn't been passed, as expected, to another doctor, but to a lay practitioner and a German immigrant to boot!

How sweet John Henry Clarke's revenge must have been, even from the grave! He must have lain smiling in his coffin. With some justification, John Henry Clarke regarded his fellow doctor homeopaths as the vilest of traitors to homeopathy, who had succeeded only in turning themselves into the easily manipulated and servile puppets of their rich aristocratic clientele.

He regarded them with enormous contempt.

Thus we can justly regard John Henry Clarke as the single most important English homeopath of this century and truly the darling of the movement. In terms of bold and experimental ideas and methods; for his writings; for his fierce independence; his great energy, which he poured into homeopathy with abandon; as a political force within the movement; and finally for his deep radicalism regarding lay practice, he towers like a colossus over all the rest.

From him flows nearly every tradition or strand within the fabric of modern British homeopathy, other than Kentianism.

Yet it is surely a very rich irony, that a right wing fascist should come to be the one who turned his back on the stuffy homeopathic establishment, accusing them of humbug in their failure to give homeopathy to the masses!

Ironic also that it took his alliance with the Marxist, J Ellis Barker, to establish a new lineage of British homeopathy, wholly devoid of any roots within the class system, and thus to truly transform it into a 'tool of liberation' Ivan Illich style....

Whatever else we might think of him as a human being, if it weren't for the wayward John Henry Clarke, and the laypersons he taught, there would be precious little homeopathy practiced in the UK today; it would still be the exclusive and minority preserve of the stuffy old rich and titled.

It was John Henry Clarke who broke the mold and it was his lay practitioners who have revived its fortunes in recent years.

Harold Fergie Woods wrote John Henry Clarke's obituary in The Homeopathic World, January 1932:

Anyone who had met Clarke but a few times, even only once, must have been impressed with the feeling of an exceptional human being, a forceful personality, a man apart.

He was literally a man apart, as he took his work and his mission so seriously that he gave himself very little time to mix with others. Perhaps, also, there were very few with whom he felt in harmony.

He was a prodigious worker, as his published works testify, to say nothing of the hosts of private patients from all parts of the world. He was editor of The Homeopathic World for altogether twenty nine years.

He was indeed an outstanding character, and if one can compare him with another, it is with him who was probably the greatest homeopath that the United States has produced James Tyler Kent.

They had the same forcible way of expressing themselves combined with an inherent retiring nature, the same intolerance of anything second rate, especially as relating to their beloved system of therapeutics, the same scorn and contempt for time servers.

And each gave to the world of Homeopathy the greatest and most valuable book that their respective countries have produced, indeed, in our opinion, the two most indispensable works written since the days of Samuel Hahnemann - the Dictionary of Materia Medica and the Repertory of Materia Medica.

John Henry Clarke wrote

  • The Prescriber: How to Practice Homeopathy,
  • The Prescriber: A Dictionary of the New Therapeutics,
  • A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica
  • A Clinical Repertory to the Dictionary of Materia Medica,
  • Prescriber to Allen's Keynotes,
  • Constitutional Medicine,
  • Vital Economy: Or, How to Conserve Your Strength,
  • The Enthusiasm of Homoeopathy,
  • Indigestion: Its Causes and Cure,
  • Life and Work of James Compton Burnett,
  • The Revolution in Medicine: Being the Seventh Hahnemannian Oration Delivered ... , What Do You Know about Homoeopathy?,
  • A bird's eye view of Hahnemann's Organon of medicine,
  • Non-surgical Treatment of Diseases of the Glands and Bones,
  • Radium as an Internal Remedy,
  • Haemorrhoids and Habitual Constipation,
  • Cholera, Diarrhœa, and Dysentery: Homœopathic Prevention and Cure,
  • Appendicitis from a homeopathic physician's point of view,
  • Iodide of arsenic in organic disease of the heart,
  • The Cure of Tumours by Medicines: With Especial Reference to the Cancer Nosodes,
  • Whooping-cough Cured with Pertussin, Its Homoeopathic Nosode,
  • Whooping-cough Cured with Coqueluchin, Its Homoeopathic Nosode,
  • Diseases of the Heart and Arteries,
  • Heart Repertory,
  • Catarrh, Colds and Grippe,
  • Cold-catching: Cold-preventing, Cold-curing, with a Section on Influenza, Rheumatism & Sciatica,
  • Therapeutics of the serpent poisons,
  • A Dictionary of Domestic Medicine,
  • M. Pasteur at Bay: Failure of the Experiment,
  • M. Pasteur and Hydrophobia, Dr. Lautaud's New Work,
  • The Pasteur Craze,
  • Homeopathy Explained,Internal Or Homeopathic Vaccination,
  • Experimental Pathology Explained and Exemplified,
  • Gunpowder as a War Remedy,
  • "Physiological Cruelty".: A Reply to "Philantropos",
  • Our Meanest Crime (vivisection),
  • Monkeys' Brains Once More: Schaefer V. Ferrier (vivisection),
  • Why the Vivisection Act is Objected to,
  • Odium Medicum and Homœopathy: 'The Times' Correspondence,
  • Hahnemann and Paracelsus,
  • From Copernicus to William Blake,
  • The God of Shelley and Blake,
  • William Blake (1757-1827) on the Lord's Prayer,
  • The Call of the Sword,
  • What is Man?,
  • England Under the Heel of the Jew, a Tale of Two Books,
  • White Labour Versus Red,
  • White Labour: Or, the Jew and International Politics.

Back to Top
Post your comments Back to Article
Place your comments / feedback  
Registered E-mail Address : Yet Not Registered on Homeorizon !!
Password :
For a larger comment, please use our "FEEDBACK FORM" or email your comment at editor@homeorizon.com
Comments on Article: Back to Article
Submit your comment
very challenging life of Dr.Clarke to become a Homeopath.
  Comment by: Dr.paul murugan, India.    on Feb 25, 2014 0 Agree  |  1 Disagree       Report Abuse

he was a great man
  Comment by: Muhammad Arif Rana, Pakistan.    on Jan 07, 2012 1 Agree  |  0 Disagree       Report Abuse

Submit your comment
Back to Comments' Top
Back to Article