WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nimgimmer

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nimgimmer

Well, that escalated quickly.

Remember that time your typical society marriage was all beer and skittles, and you each went your married way, until your husband dandled a prostitute with an open sore on her mouth on his “knee.” The next thing you know, it’s mercury pills and trips to the doctor.

Yeah, that time. Oh, to have been a young Georgian lady with a father looking to marry her off to any young heir to an Earldom. Lud.

This is the third portrait in Marriage à-la-mode, a series of six pictures painted by William Hogarth between 1743 and 1745. The series is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery. It’s time to visit the doctor this week…although the curator of the National Gallery’s exhibition has doubts about just whose interests the physician in this portrait is serving.

Nimgimmer

A physician or surgeon, particularly those who cure the venereal disease.

Marriage à-la-mode: 3, The Inspection (The Visit to the Quack Doctor), by William Hogarth, 1743, National Gallery.

From the Wikipedia description:

The third in the series, The Inspection (the name on its frame), called The Visit to the Quack Doctor by Hogarth, shows the viscount (the earl’s son) visiting a quack with a young prostitute. According to one interpretation, the viscount, unhappy with the mercury pills meant to cure his syphilis, demands a refund while the young prostitute next to him dabs an open sore on her mouth, an early sign of syphilis. But according to the analysis of Judy Egerton, the curator of the National Gallery’s exhibition, the interpretation is very different: The viscount has brought the child to the doctor because he believes he has infected her with syphilis. The woman with the knife is the girl’s mother, feigning anger in order to blackmail the viscount, who is being set up. The child already had the disease when her mother sold her to him, either because he was not her first “protector” or because she inherited the illness from her syphilitic father, who is the quack doctor.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lombard Fever

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lombard Fever

Short and sweet this week. The slang term is pretty self-explanatory, and it’s finally too pretty outside for any of us to stay glued to our electronic devices, reading blog posts.

But I’ve found a new phrase to use when we hear those dreaded words: “I’m bored.”

Sir William Pulteney ‘Le Trèsorier’ by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 21 May 1798, National Portrait Gallery.

Lombard Fever

Sick of the lombard fever; i.e. of the idles.

John Courtenay ‘Juge du Tribunal Correctionnel’ by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 21 May 1798, National Portrait Gallery.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Grunter

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Grunter

One of my favorite phrases is ‘dab hand,’ and to quote Manuel from Fawlty Towers: “I learned it from a book.” Which also happens to be one of the funniest twelve episodes of television, ever.

But I digress.

I often make one of the characters in my novels a ‘dab hand’ at home medicine. This could be anything from herbal concoctions to poultices and plasters. This is historically accurate: at least one female in a Regency household would have known how to confer simple remedies in a pinch, until a doctor could be fetched or patient transported for care, if on the road.

Grunter

Complain of sickness.

George III Mahogany Medicine Chest, late 18th century, with label printed Ireland & Hollier Apothecaries & Chemists, No. 22 Pall Mall, Family Medicine Chests compleat [sic] and Genuine Patent Medicines &c, sold at Sotheby’s in 2017.

So what would those with a dab hand dispense? After heading to their still room, where all their ingredients would be stored, they’d brew, grind, or compound some easy to swallow (elderberry syrup), and some not-so-easy-to-swallow creations:

Take pearls, crab’s-eyes, red coral, white amber, burnt hartshorn, and oriental bezoar, of each half an ounce; the black tips of crabs-claws three ounces; make all into a paste, with a jelly of vipers, and roll it into little balls, which dry and keep for use.
(from The Compleat Housewife or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion, 15th edition, 1753, compiled by Eliza Smith, as reported at Jane Austen’s World)

19th Century Traveling Apothecary Medicine Chest, containing 10 glass bottles and original scales, sold at Auctions at Showplace in 2017.

Also according to Jane Austen’s World – from The Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run – here are the myriad ways an herbal remedy may be prepared:

Infusion: A liquid made by soaking an herb – usually its dried leaves or flowers – in liquid. An herbal tea is really an infusion.
Decoction: A liquid made by boiling an herb.
Poultice: A soft, moist mass of bread, meal, herbs, etc. applied to the body.
Plaister: A solid or semi solid remedy, spread on cloth or leather and applied to the body.
Electuary: Powder dried herb and mix with three times as much honey.
Oil: Fresh or dried herb is soaked in oil to extract the essences of the herb. Usually applied externally.
Ointment: Fresh or dried herb is soaked in lard to extract the essences of the herb, then mixed with beeswax and turpentine. Applied externally.

Mahogany Regency Medicine Cabinet with 23 medicine bottles, circa 1820, from Richard Gardner Antiques.

The handy housewife, well-trained housekeeper, or bluestocking daughter (otherwise known as a spinster-in-the-making) could make things such as “bottles of saline draughts, barley-water, lemonade, jars of calves’ foot or pork jelly, as well as blisters and plasters,” according to Nancy Mayer, Regency Researcher. Surely being fed calves’ foot jelly was the source of the idiom the cure is worse than the disease.

To procure the more potent medicines, you’d need to consult an apothecary or doctor, although potent didn’t necessarily mean safer (think mercury and opium).

We’ll visit them next week.

Until then, please consider heading over to Regina Jeffer’s delightful home on the internet and reading her exhaustive Herbal Medicine Used in Regency Period. There was no need for me to re-hash what had already been done thoroughly and well (Bonus: she shows how she incorporated her research into a novel!). Pin it, bookmark it, and put a shortcut to it on your desktop while you’re there.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sick as a Horse

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sick as a Horse

There are so many bugs running through a city near us that they had to quarantine the local homeless shelter. Simply covering our mouths and washing our hands (every time we have to cover said mouth or touch something shareable) would go a long way toward slowing the spread of the illnesses, but sometimes the fact of so many people driven inside under together conditions beyond their control just provides the perfect breeding ground for all those nasty germs.

Sick as a Horse

Horses are said to be extremely sick at their stomachs, from being unable to relieve themselves by vomiting. Bracken, indeed, in his Farriery, gives an instance of that evacuation being procured, but by a means which he says would make the Devil vomit. Such as may have occasion to administer an emetic either to the animal or the fiend, may consult his book for the recipe.

There were myriad illnesses running around during the Regency era. This week, I’ll look at the diseases; next, the cures, folk remedies, and outright snake oil scams for them.

Ague

This is the somewhat obscure term for malaria; some texts will also refer to this as miasma. Doctors first ascribed the cause of the ague to unwholesome or poisonous air, but a little research soon showed mosquitoes (brought back from the great English fleet traveling to the West Indies) to be the common denominator. It turns out mosquitoes loved the marshlands of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, too. This illness was characterized by chills, shivering, fever, and sweating. The ague existed in England until the mid 19th century, when proper drainage helped eradicate the disease (if you’re watching Victoria, thank Prince Albert and his fascination with sewage systems).

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 1788, The British Museum.

Apoplexy

Otherwise known as a stroke. Apoplexy resulted in a sudden fit of paralysis and dizziness. The prefix of the word – apo – meant ‘to strike or hit,’ indicating both the unexpected and ferocious nature of this condition. The results of apoplexy could bring death, while recovery usually involved some incapacitation, such as paralysis, palsy (tremors), or inability to speak. Many died within hours of the attack. Bloodletting, the go-to remedy for all ailments, was believed to help the patient. Survivors were sometimes mistaken as mad due to their inability to speak or control bodily functions, and those without means were consigned to asylums.

It’s odd to me how this word has also come to mean extreme anger, such as an ‘apoplectic rage.’

Bilious Fever

This term was applied as loosely as today’s ‘flu.’ During the Regency, it meant anyone suffering from fever, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, and was blamed on a disorder of the bile.

Biliousness

If you had a disorder of the liver or gallbladder, with accompanying gastric pain, this was your illness. Bile was not to be messed around with, evidently.

Cancrum Oris

This devastating ulcer could destroy the cheek, lips, tongue, palate, or face, and was often fatal (friendly tip: do not Google this for pictures). It was most often seen in children between the ages of two and five, and was caused by poor hygiene and poor nutrition. Damage was usually irreversible and could even lead to gangrene.

Catarrh

This term is most often seen in novels as the Regency equivalent of the head cold, a disease characterized by ‘inflammation of, and discharge from, a mucous membrane’ in a body cavity or in the airways, but catarrh could be so much more. Bronchial catarrh was bronchitis, epidemic catarrh was influenza, suffocative catarrh was croup, urethral catarrh was gleet, and vaginal catarrh was leukorrhea, according to Geri Walton. For some reason, I always picture an elderly, but stern, aunt telling all how she suffers so from catarrh…but not really.

Consumption

Consumption was the common name for tuberculosis, meaning a “wasting of the body by disease; wasting disease, progressive emaciation,” which replaced the old terms “the evil disease” and phthsis. There was no effective treatment for the disease. Spread through the air, saliva, and blood, it caused weakness, fatigue, fever, chills, night sweats, wracking cough, and spitting up blood. However, in the latter stages of the disease, sufferers experienced a burst of energy and creativity, leading many to call it a “romantic disease.” British poet Lord Byron wrote, “I should like to die from consumption,” helping to popularize the disease as the disease of artists (the pretty-boy fool). George Sand doted on her phthisic lover, Frédéric Chopin, calling him her “poor melancholy angel“.  The disease killed more people in Britain in the 1800’s than smallpox, measles, typhus, whooping cough, and scarlet fever combined, and it came to be known as The White Plague.

Tegg’s Caricatures No. 45: Dropsy Courting Consumption by Thomas Rowlandson, 1810, The British Museum.

Croup

This name was given to pretty much any sickness of the time that involved coughing but usually without leading to death. It occurred most often in children, as it does now, with coughing, hoarseness, mildly sore throats, and possibly mild fevers. The name arose from the local disease in southeastern Scotland, given wide publication by Dr. Francis Home of Edinburgh in his 1765 treatise on it, according to Etymology Online. In modern times, any child with a barking cough is said to have the croup.

Dysentery

This disease was characterized by inflammation of the mucous membrane of the large intestine. Its early name said it all: the bloody flux. Its symptoms were severe diarrhea, bloody and/or mucus-filled stools, fever, and abdominal pain.

Dyspepsia

This was indigestion caused by just about anything: overeating, late-night eating, eating something that disagreed with you, not chewing food up properly before swallowing, etc. Dictionary.com defined it as ‘deranged digestion,’ which is about the best definition I’ve ever come across for anything.

Effluvium

Those distasteful, foul-smelling, gasses or exhalations that were thought to cause disease. Not only could effluvia come from sewage waste, but females might infect males with their noxious fumes.

Furuncle

Also known as boils, these nasty skin abscesses were filled with pus, and brought great pain and suffering to those afflicted. Until the late 19th century, no one knew the cause of furuncles, but they remembered that they were a sign of the Plague, and feared them, and sufferers, accordingly.

Gout

This was a joint disease that most often affected the upper classes. In medieval medicine, the disease was thought to be caused by ‘drops of viscous humors seeping from the blood into the joints.’ This turns out to be close to the modern scientific explanation, as gout was often caused by the drinking of heavy or sweet wines, or excessive beer drinking combined with insufficient food. The disease can also be hereditary.

The Gout by James Gillray, 1799, The British Museum.

Palsy

This was uncontrollable tremors combined with partial paralysis, and could be caused by a host of diseases. So palsy was a symptom rather than an illness, but severe enough to deserve a mention. As seen above, survivors of apoplexy could suffer from palsy. As with most illnesses of the era, there was no cure.

Piles

The more common name for hemorrhoids, so-called from the ball-like shape.

Pleurisy

Pleurisy was an inflammation of the lungs marked by a hacking cough and sharp chest pain. Pleuritis meant ‘pain in the side,’ although in medieval times it meant ‘more,’ as in ‘more humours’ (those medieval doctors loved their bodily humours). Respiratory infections were the main causes of pleurisy.

Pneumonia

Inflammation of the lungs, or ‘winter fever,’ was defined by pain in the side, rapid breathing, fluttering pulse, cough, and fever.  Its symptoms were described as early as the Middle Ages and are similar to the descriptions of today.

Puerperal Fever

This has to be the saddest of all the illnesses of the era. Also known as Child Bed Fever, it was the main reason women feared pregnancy during the Regency. Symptoms included severe abdominal pain and high fever, and both mother and child could (and likely would) die from it. We now know it as an infection resulting from a prolonged or difficult childbirth where a foreign organism is introduced into the birth canal.

Putried Fever/Sore Throat

This is not your modern-day fever/sore throat. Think gangrene that attacked the tonsils and throat, destroyed the tissue, and gave off some of the noxious effluvium mentioned above. Think high fever and massively aching throat along the lines of the strep throat of today. This could also be called quinsy.

A Sore Throat (Egad its worse & worse) by H. Pyall, 1827, Harvard Medical Library.

Rheumatic Fever

This was a complication from Putrid Fever/Putrid Sore Throat. It was most often seen in children and was nearly always fatal. It was characterized by fever, inflammation, pain in and around the joints, and by inflammatory involvement of the pericardium and heart valves.

Scarlatina

Scarlatina, or Scarlet Fever, was the contagious disease characterized by a bright red, distinctive rash that looked like a sunburn with bumps, accompanied by a high fever and sore throat. There were traumatic epidemics in England and Wales in the mid 1800s that killed hundreds of people.

Smallpox

This virus was acute, causing blisters on the skin, mouth, and throat, accompanied by fever. Blisters that occurred near the eyes could cause blindness. It was fatal to one-third of those who caught it, but for those who survived, they were immune, though terribly scarred and marked such as survivors. Eighty percent of children that contracted this disease died. Smallpox was highly contagious, being easily inhaled or transmitted through bodily fluids. One of the first vaccinations ever created was for smallpox in 1798. An interesting side fact: smallpox was so named in contrast to great pox, which was syphilis.

The Cow-Pock –or– The Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! by James Gillray, 1802, The British Museum.

Tetanus

Also known as Trismus and Lockjaw, this infectious disease affected the central nervous system, causing violent spasms and stiffness of the muscles all over the body (but most obviously in locking the jaw). Unbeknownst at the time, tetanus was caused by bacteria living in soil, saliva, dust, and manure – hence its extremely contagious nature – and entered the body through open wounds.

Surgeon and artist Sir Charles Bell documented the effects of tetanus after the Battle of Corunna in the Napoleonic War in 1809, for the purpose of studying gunshot wounds; his most famous of his thirteen paintings shows the horrors and agony of full tetany.

Opisthotonus. Tetanus Following Gunshot Wounds by surgeon and artist Sir Charles Bell, 1809, public domain.

Typhus

This disease was also called ‘Pestilential’ or ‘Putrid Fever,’ or by names derived from the locality were the outbreak appeared, such as ‘Camp,’ ‘Jail,’ ‘Hospital,’ or ‘Ship Fever.’ Typhus spread by lice, and symptoms included delirium, headaches, fever, and a rash. The duration of the disease was tracked by the rash, which cleared in two weeks, if the patient survived. Typhus spread via overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, and people could catch it repeatedly if re-exposed. No cure existed until the discovery of antibiotics.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

A pestilence has descended upon my house. On me, specifically. Not nearly as dire as the cant definition of this week’s word, but enough to get me down, watching Netflix and using Kleenex faster than gossip travels through a small town.

Please forgive my brevity and, as usual, enjoy some Rowlandson and Gillray illustrations of the recordings of Mr. Grose.

Cannikin

In the canting sense, the plague. Otherwise, a small can.

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 29 March 1788, British Museum.

From the description in the British Museum:

The patient sits in profile to the left with chattering teeth, holding his hands to a blazing fire on the extreme left Ague, a snaky monster, coils itself round him, its coils ending in claws like the legs of a monstrous spider. Behind the patient’s back, in the middle of the room, Fever, a furry monster with burning eyes, resembling an ape, stands full-face with outstretched arms. On the right the doctor sits in profile to the right at a small table, writing a prescription, holding up a medicine-bottle in his left hand. The room is well furnished and suggests wealth: a carved four-post bed is elaborately draped. On the high chimney-piece are ‘chinoiseries’ and medicine-bottles. Above it is an elaborately framed landscape. Beneath the design is engraved: “And feel by turns the bitter change of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce.” Milton.’ 29 March 1788. Hand-coloured etching.

Hands-down the best description I’ve ever seen and read of illness. Fierce extremes, indeed.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Sham Abram

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Sham Abram

It’s always been a thing for kids to fake an illness to stay home from school. The classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is predicated on this very concept. Now, I think more adults use this excuse to skip a day of work, having been the creators of the concept back in the day. After all, youth is wasted on the young. Fun Fact: this concept, rather than direct quote, is most likely attributable to George Bernard Shaw instead of Oscar Wilde, according to the Quote Investigator.

But I digress.

Visiting the Sick by James Gillray, published 28 July 1806 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

To Sham Abram

To pretend sickness.

So how does one succeed in shamming wise Abram?

The Sick Prince by James Gillray, published 16 June 1787 by Samuel William Fores, National Portrait Gallery.

So glad you asked.

Consulting the modern-day oracle again, Ferris Bueller, we find the secret is the cold, clammy hands . . . but avoid the phony fever at all costs. That’s a one-way ticket to the doctor, and that’s worse than enduring whatever you have going on in your life. So even though Ferris is describing the parental fake-out, I think it could work on the job as well. There’s nothing like showing up “sick” to make your co-workers scream for you to take the day off. No one wants to catch what you’re trying to share.

Punch Cures the Gout, -the Colic, -and the ‘Tisick by James Gillray, published 13 July 1799 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

To start your Monday off well, let’s learn how To Sham Abram from the master.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.