"I feared the woman had no better thought than to make a mountebank of her child"

The Mountebank (1635)
Public DomainThe Mountebank (1635) - Credit: Rembrandt

Mountebanks were itinerant hucksters who made their living selling quack medicines. American mountebanks embellished the showmanship typical of their kind with vivid entertainments, including displays of ventriloquism, hypnotism and conjuring tricks. John Wilson’s fears that Hester intends Pearl for this ignomious profession stem from the fact that mountebanks marked themselves out with exotic, flamboyant dress.

Doctor Botherum, the Mountebank (1800)
Creative Commons AttributionDoctor Botherum, the Mountebank (1800) - Credit: Thomas Rowlandson ©National Trust Images/John Hammond