Ebenezer Sibly was a quack doctor, plagiarist, and masonic ritualist in late eighteenth-century London; his brother Manoah was a respectable accountant and a pastor who ministered to his congregation without pay for fifty years. The inventor of Dr. Sibly's Reanimating Solar Tincture, which claimed to restore the newly dead to life, Ebenezer himself died before he turned fifty and stayed that way despite being surrounded by bottles of the stuff. Asked to execute his will, which urged the continued manufacture of Solar Tincture, and left legacies for multiple and concurrent wives as well as an illegitimate son whose name the deceased could not recall, Manoah found his brother's record of financial and moral indiscretions so upsetting that he immediately resigned his executorship.
Ebenezer's death brought a premature conclusion to a colorfully chaotic life, lived on the fringes of various interwoven esoteric subcultures. Drawing on such sources as ratebooks and pollbooks, personal letters and published sermons, burial registers and horoscopes, Susan Mitchell Sommers has woven together an engaging microhistory that offers useful revisions to scholarly accounts of Ebenezer and Manoah, while placing the entire Sibly family firmly in the esoteric byways of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Siblys of London provides fascinating insight into the lives of a family who lived just outside our usual historical range of vision.
Susan Mitchell Sommers is Professor of History at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Sommers is most recently the author of Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry (2012). Her current book project, with Professor Andrew Prescott, is Searching for the Apple Tree: The Early Years of English Freemasonry.