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Messenger Monsey

(b. 1694, Hackford, Norfolk, England – d. Dec. 26, 1788, Royal Hospital, Chelsea )

Gender: M

Dr Messenger Monsey (1694-1788) was the physician in charge of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. He was a friend of Elizabeth Montagu, and wrote rhyming letters to her. He was known for his eccentricity and coarse wit (of which Samuel Johnson disapproved). His friends called him the “unpossible” Doctor (see Carter’s letters of October 20, 1762 and September 22, 1774). One story told that he had hidden his banknotes in the fireplace of his house and returned to find his housekeeper lighting a fire to boil a kettle. He threw water over the fire and the assembled company. Monsey took a boat to the Bank to redeem his notes for cash, but dropped his pocket book in the river, and arrived at the bank with a hatful of singed and soaked bank-notes. Carter refers to this in her letter to Montagu of August 4, 1774. Monsey died on 26 December 1788 aged 96, after which his body was dissected before students of Guy's Hospital, as he had requested. An extensive correspondence between Monsey and the Norwich physician and philanthropist Benjamin Gooch survives in the British Library.

Also known as:

  • Messenger Monsey


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