Sources: Primitive Psycho-therapy And Quackery

One of the most notorious charlatans of the eighteenth century was

Giuseppe Balsamo, who was born at Palermo, Sicily, June 2, 1743. Though

of humble origin, this arch-impostor assumed the title of Count

Alessandro di Cagliostro, and styled himself Grand Cophta, Prophet and

Thaumaturge. He married Lorenza Feliciani, the daughter of a

girdle-maker of Rome. Balsamo professed alchemy and free-masonry,

practised medicine and sorcery, and raised money by various methods of

imposture. He rode about in his own coach, attended by a numerous

retinue in rich liveries. His attire consisted of an iron-gray coat, a

scarlet waistcoat trimmed with gold lace, and red breeches. His jaunty

hat was adorned with a white feather, and handsome rings encircled his

fingers. He carried a sword after the fashion of the times, and his

shoe-buckles shone like flashing jewels.

Balsamo was a man of great energy; gifted with persuasive eloquence

which seemed to exercise a charm over his hearers. Having rare natural

abilities, he enriched his mind by diligent studies and observations of

human nature, during his tours abroad. But in spite of these advantages

he failed to rise above the sphere of an unscrupulous charlatan.

In 1780 he settled in Strasburg, where he established a reputation by

some marvellous cures. Here was the culmination of his fame and fortune.

Five years later he came to Paris, where he became implicated in the

notorious affair of the "Diamond Necklace," and was imprisoned in the

Bastille for some months. His death occurred at the fortress of Saint

Leon, Rome, in 1795. A sublimer rascal never breathed, wrote W.

Russell, LL.D., in "Eccentric Personages." Balsamo had unlimited faith

in the gullibility of mankind, and was amply endowed with the gifts

which enable their possessor to shear the simpletons of society.