WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Aegrotat

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Aegrotat

For as much as many doctors in the Georgian Era and Long 19th Century still clung to bloodletting, leeches, and purgatives, medical advances were steadily coming along. Although way too many medical professionals still wanted to examine the feces of the sick.

But I’ll leave that for the medical journals of the time to discuss.

Metallic-Tractors by James Gillray, 1801, Public Domain.

Along the lines of the more things change, the more things stay the same, I was surprised to learn there was a slang term for ‘ye olde doctor’s note.’ Apparently, students have always been trying to get out of class, and always will. The first – and last – time I tried it was the third grade, and it earned me a trip to the doctor’s office for a throat culture to check for strep throat. Never again.

Aegrotat

(CAMBRIDGE). A certificate from the apothecary that you are INDISPOSED, (i. e.) to go to chapel. He sports an Aegrotat: he is sick, and unable to attend Chapel.

Geri Walter, in her post Health Remedies, Preventatives, and Cures in the 1700 and 1800s, makes a handy list of restoratives. Her list; my summarizing commentary.

Baths

Baths were considered profitable for myriad ailments, from hygiene and hysteria, to inflammations and sprains/fractures – problems that warm baths are still prescribed for today (well, except for the female hysteria). However, some historians have theorized that cross contamination between public bath springs and open sewage may have led to its own health concerns.

Bloodletting and Leeches

When your body was full of foul and noxious humors, sometimes you just needed 20 leeches applied. At the same time.

Bread

Not for eating, but for making a poultice or plaister, for application to areas afflicted with boils or other injuries. Thank the Egyptians for this one.

Calomel and Opium

Interestingly, delving into several 19th century books, one finds very little evidence that opium ever did much of anything for any patient beyond addicting them. It started off as a topical curative, and was so useless that doctors moved on to (1) having patients ingest it, and (2) combining it with mercury. Both terrific ideas.

Palatable Physic, Pub 5th of April by W. Heath, 5 April 1810, Public Domain.

Cold Water

In the late 18th century, James Currie proposed a cold water treatment for fever while a student at the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, because of the link he discovered between evaporation and cooling. He based his proposal on observations made after a shipwreck and those exposed to salt water, the effects of evaporation, and what happened to the men when they were given warm blankets. Although not initially applying this discovery to illnesses, his subsequent research on other volunteers, and himself, led him to focus on its application to fevers. Needless to say, the “establishment” that favored patients lying in the dark, in bed, in cloistered rooms with firmly shut windows, under copious blankets, were less than thrilled or interested in his findings.

Epsom Salts

Epsom during the Regency era was as popular for horses as for healing. Since it’s discovery in 1618, the salts (here meaning the generic term salt, defined as any crystalized chemical compound; in this case, magnesium sulfate) had been used for everything from soaks for tired muscles, poultices for wound healing, and a solution to fight dandruff and combat acne. When dissolved in water, it even aided digestion. Epsom salts also became a key ingredient in the newly popular tonics (read quack medicine) of the time.

Flower of Sulphur

This one baffles me, because if you’ve ever smelled sulphur, you know that it has a distinctive odor. Back in the day, it was said to protect against toothache and prevent bad breath. To be sure, it has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties, and could have been efficacious in these pursuits, but how bad was a person’s breath that they wanted to replace it with the smell of rotten eggs?

Flour

One recommendation at the time was to treat burns by applying flour thickly over the injury, and any inflammation that spread. Of course, we know now that the heat needs to be drawn out first, else the flour simply aids in the burn continuing to cook the injured area. Otherwise, flour isn’t too terrible an idea, as a protectant.

Ginger Root

Ginger is my go-to for an upset stomach. Regency apothecaries used it as a syrup or tincture, for gout, colic, or indigestion.

Horseradish

I imagine if you could get straight horseradish down your gullet, it could go a long way to curing what ailed you. It was claimed to be effective for rheumatism and dropsy.

A Pinch of Cephalic by George Cruikshank after James Gillray, 25 January 1822, National Portrait Gallery.

Limit Star Gazing

Did they really want to prevent eye strain, or rather keep people indoors, properly supervised, and away from the bewitching moonlight that tended to result in disorders of the nine-month kind?

Mercury

History had its own little blue pills called “blue mass.” Mercury was dispensed in this manner: one pill twice daily, for apoplexy (stroke), constipation, depression, melancholy, toothache, and syphilis. Today we would call this throwing something at the wall to see what sticks. We would also call it mercury poisoning.

Myrrh

In the 19th century, hygiene was still considered equal parts unnecessary and unhealthy. As people were slowly coming around to the idea of better health through cleanliness, people still balked at brushing their teeth more than once a day. One dentist said if you must choose, brush at night, the reason being that people tended to sleep in heated, unwholesome atmospheres just swirling with bodily humors. Whatever we accumulated in our mouths from the day’s adventures, really needed to be removed before going to sleep in the suffocating cesspits of our bedrooms for eight hours. Add a little myrrh for good measure for its antiseptic properties.

Oatmeal Paste

I love this recipe for chapped hands: 4 ounces of lard, 6 ounces honey, 8 ounces oatmeal, 3 egg yolks, and 1 ounce powdered gum arable. Mix well into a paste, then leave on the skin until “exceedingly soft and supple.” Then good luck keeping your pets and farm animals from eating you alive.

Mustard Poultice

As we learned last week, a poultice is a soft, warm, moist mass of bread, meal, or herbs applied to an affected part of the body to relieve an injury. The magic ingredient here is powdered mustard, made for a sore throat.

Mixing a Recipe for Corns by George Cruikshank, 1819, Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library.

Reading Aloud with the Teeth Closed

To cure stutters and stammers, “for two hours a day, for three or four months.” Mercy.

Recital

To cure a lisp, recite the following rapidly and repeatedly:

Hobbs meets Snobbs and Kobbs;
Hobbs bobs to Snobbs and Nobbs;
Hobbs nobs with Snobbs and robs Nobbs’ fobs.
“This is,” says Nobbs, “the worst of Hobbs’ jobs,” and Snobbs sobs.

Sheep Sorrel

This miracle medicinal was used to treat inflammation, scurvy, cancer, and diarrhea. Essiac tea today is brewed with sheep sorrel and touted as a homeopathic treatment for cancer.

Stimulating Drinks and Whipping

Quite possibly the most horrifying hilarious prescription in the list. When “poisoning (there’s truth you don’t see in today’s medical journals) by laudanum (opium), morphine, paregoric, and sleeping mixtures in genera,” patients often needed stimulating drinks to be “kept warm, breathing (more truth),” and “awake by whipping if necessary.” Dear Lord. Medicine may still be a practice, but God bless the 21st century.

Toads

No longer just for witches, toads were now in vogue to treat everything from dropsy to bed wetting, scrofula, cancer, colic, inflammation, headaches, nose bleeds, smallpox, and quinsy. The poor toad could have various parts cut off, be cooked or boiled and eaten, or dried and ground into powder for internal and external use. Still sounds like witchcraft to me.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bufe (Part 1)

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bufe (Part 1)

Dogs have been inhabiting England for a long time. Dame Juliana Bernes composed the first known printed list of breeds in 1486, in her treatise The Boke of St. Albans. For the next two weeks, let’s talk about the popular dog breeds of the Regency era (there is so much information, it needs to be split into two posts).

Excerpt from The Boke of St. Albans by Dame Juliana Bernes, 1486.

Dogs during the Regency period were prized less for their looks and more for their abilities, somewhat the opposite of modern tastes. There are always exceptions to the norm, such as the surge in popularity of toy-sized breeds as lapdogs during the Regency, but for the most part, the value of Regency era dogs lay in their skills versus their cute faces or pretty coats.

Dogs were officially registered and codified during the Victorian period, and suddenly their place in families shifted to that of hobby and pet. The Industrial Revolution not only lessened the need for human workers instead of machinery, it all but eliminated the dog as a worker. They were no longer employees, and suddenly became esteemed property, something to be displayed and bragged about like a piece of art, their lineage passed down like a favorite piece of heirloom jewelry.

While the names of the breeds from the Regency era are familiar, some of their features are very different. The Victorians developed specific rules for  how each breed should look, and records were kept to help owners breed desired traits and weed out the “inferior” ones – sometimes to the detriment of the health of the dogs.

“How man has changed his best friend: How 100 years of intensive breeding has left some dog breeds unrecognisable – and in pain,” via The Daily Mail.

I’m going to list the popular Regency era breeds in alphabetical order, mostly for my benefit, so I don’t forget any. And for the purposes of these two posts, I will include graphics of the breeds as they looked during the early 19th century, not as they are now.

Bufe

A dog. CANT.

The English Bulldog

These stout dogs were originally bred to help butchers control livestock, such as horses, cows, and boars. They were strong and fearless…which unfortunately led to a barbaric practice called “bull-baiting,” where the dog would seize the ring in a bull’s nose and either pull him to the ground in victory, or die trying. The “sport” was outlawed in 1835; with the loss of its job and money-making in the bull ring, these 80-100 pound dogs moved indoors. Selective breeding gradually gave rise to a shorter, squattier, gentler dog. It also changed the shape of the breed’s head, from a dog that resembled a mastiff with a large head and short muzzle, to one whose lower jaw protruded prominently and whose nose is shallow and upturned, giving his face a “smushed” quality.

Crib and Rosa by Abraham Cooper, circa 1817, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The Collie

The name Collie likely derived from a combination of the dialectal coaly, meaning “coal-black,” and the Middle English colfox, “coal-fox,” a variety of fox with tail and both ears tipped with black. Collies of this era were also known as sheep dogs, and were intelligent, friendly, and energetic. They came rough-coated, with long and thick hair, or smooth-coated, with shorter, fine hair. One used to have to go to Scotland to see this breed until about 1800, when Englishmen imported the beasties to herd their sheep and cows. Upon her first visit to Scotland, it was said that Queen Victoria saw a Collie at work and was so impressed by his cleverness that she became a veritable patroness of the breed, leading to their popularity as pets. Selective breeding during the Victorian era gave rise to the lighter brown and white colored coat of today’s Collies, where the barest hint of their ancestors’ black coloring can be seen around the ears and undercarriage.

Sheep Dogs (Collies), smooth coated and rough coated, public domain.

The Dalmatian

Although there is an area in Yugoslavia known as Dalmatia, it’s unlikely the name of the breed derived from there: tomb paintings in ancient Egypt revealed spotted dogs trotting alongside chariots. The popularity of the breed, and accompanying documentation in word and art, dates from 1800s England. Dalmatian simply means spotted dog, and more specifically distinctive black and white spotted dog with a short, glossy coat. They were medium-sized, lithe, and speedy dogs capable of great endurance, their strong and muscular physiques giving rise to extremely active natures. They were natural carriage dogs, accompanying horses on the road, with their speed and stride allowing them to keep the pace of travel. Dalmatians would overnight in the stables as both watchdogs and companions to the horses. This breed’s propensity to love to travel made it extremely popular with the English aristocracy, who called them Coach Dogs, and who often found it safer to leave their property in the care of Dalmatians rather than coachmen.

According to the Georgian Index:

It is a trick of thieves who work in pairs for one to distract the coachman while the other sneaks around to the rear and steals whatever robes and other valuables he can lay his hands on. I never lost an article while the dogs were in charge, but was continually losing when the coachman was in charge. (Woodcock)

Fun Fact: Dalmatian puppies are born solid white; their spots develop at three to four weeks of age.

Dalmatian Dog With Puppies by Pieter van der Hulst, after 1700, public domain.

The Great Dane

This breed was so named in 1774 when French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, saw a large dog while traveling in Denmark and erroneously assumed it was a breed native to that country. His name, “le Grande Danois,” or Great Dane, took hold. However, in the middle of the 16th century, documents show that these brawny, long-legged dogs, a cross breeding of English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds, were imported from England to the continent. Germans even called them English Dogges, and they became popular in that country for hunting wild boar, bear, and deer by day, and sleeping in their master’s rooms at night. Known as Kammerhunde, meaning “Chamber Dogs,” they were veritable kings of their castles, wearing gilded collars and protecting their owners from assassins.

But none of these countries may know the origin of these giant canines. Ancient frescoes from Tiryns, dating back to the 14th–13th centuries BC, show large Boar Hounds on the hunt.

These dogs were everywhere throughout all time.

Wall painting fragments of a wild boar hunt, Tiryns Palace, National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Great Danes are one of the tallest breeds, but not quite as tall as we think of today. Both males and females weighed over 100 pounds, and their coats were short and light in color, with darkened muzzles. Author Sharon Lathan writes that Great Danes “were physically strong, brave, powerful hunters, quick and deadly, and very aggressive. Much different from the typical Great Dane’s temperament today, the gentleness bred into them in more recent decades.”

Ulmer Dogge by Johann Christof Merck, 1705, Jagdschloss Grunewald. Note that gilded collar.

The English Foxhound

The epitome of all English dogs, detailed records have been kept for this breed since the 1700s, when foxhounds were bred and pedigrees documented by the Dukes of Rutland and Beaufort, and Earls Fitzwilliam and Yarborough. Foxhounds were kept in packs, housed in kennels, and although treated extremely well, they were workers – hunters – and definitely not pets. It is believed that this breed resulted from the crossing of Southern Hounds with Northern Hounds to produce dogs with great noses and stamina, but little speed. To fix this, gazehounds (also known as sighthounds) from Northern England were added into the stock – likely Greyhounds or Whippets. To increase tenacity, some papers show the addition of Fox Terriers and English Bulldogs to the mix. By the middle 1700’s, the expert and indefatigable hunter known as the Foxhound was born. They are one of the few breeds who look relatively the same then as now.

A Couple of Foxhounds by George Stubbs, 1792, Tate Museum.

The Greyhound

Like Dalmatians, Greyhounds seem to have been around in ancient Egypt, where their likenesses were frescoed on tomb walls. As such, the breed has been forever associated with nobility and rulers; for hundreds of years, only aristocrats and royals were allowed to own them. They were originally bred as hunting dogs, and could reach such speeds that few prey could escape. Their long and slender legs, sleek lines, and deep chest combined with keen eyesight to make them a formidable chasing machine. The winter sport of coursing – releasing hounds (in pairs, in Regency England) into an open field to chase flushed game – was a signature pursuit for Greyhounds, where competition was fierce and highly organized in a group structure:

The rules for membership in all of the coursing clubs was based on the rules Lord Orford had established for the Swaffham Coursing Society. Membership was only open to gentlemen, and was limited to twenty-six members at any time. Each member of a coursing club typically owned, bred and trained his own greyhounds which were then matched at coursing meetings….The essentials of any coursing meeting were a series of matches, each of which comprised the pursuit of a hare by a pair, or brace, of greyhounds….The greyhounds were judged on both speed and skill in their pursuit of the hare. One of the reasons hares had become so popular for coursing was that in addition to being very fast, they were both clever and agile. They seldom ran a straight line, and could turn quickly and unexpectedly to evade the pursing hounds. The “turn” was a coursing term which indicated the hare had turned at not less than a right angle, while the “wrench” was the term for a turn of less than a right angle. The greyhounds were judged on how well they anticipated and responded to the movements of the hare along the course. There were points awarded if one of the a greyhounds caught and killed the hare, but those points were awarded to the dog who had done the most to make the kill possible, even if that dog had not actually made the kill. More often, however, the hare escaped, or was caught up by one of the spectators after the match and set free, if she was considered to have provided especially good sport.
~from The Gentlemanly Sport of Coursing at The Regency Redingote

Turk, a greyhound, the property of George Lane Fox by George Garrard, 1822, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The English Mastiff

The first printed list in English of dog breeds, from the The Boke of St. Albans, included the Mastiff (see the third line in the graphic excerpt from the book at the top of this post). This breed has been in England so long that it was theorized to have been brought over by Phoenician traders in the 6th century B.C. Before selective breeding began in the Victorian era, Mastiffs were described as “vast, huge, stubborn, ugly, and eager, of a heavy and burdensome body” (John Caius), and “warlike dogs” (Christopher Merret).

When Sir Peers Legh was wounded in the bloody Battle of Agincourt in 1415, it was noted that his Mastiff stood over and protected him for many hours as the battle raged. The dog was returned afterward to Legh’s home, Lyme Park, and was the foundation of the Lyme Hall Mastiffs. The modern Mastiff breed, codified during the Victorian era, was based on this 500-year-old line. (Lyme Park, Jane Austen fans will remember, stood in for Pemberley, in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice)

Mastiffs showed bodies of solid bulk and broad skulls, and weighed between 150–250 pounds. Although bred for several generations to hunt wolves and fight in blood sports, the breed’s temperament has always been documented as both brave and docile, and perfectly tuned into the action at hand. Sydenham Edwards wrote in the 1800 Cynographia Britannica:

What the Lion is to the Cat the Mastiff is to the Dog, the noblest of the family; he stands alone, and all others sink before him. His courage does not exceed his temper and generosity, and in attachment he equals the kindest of his race. His docility is perfect; the teazing of the smaller kinds will hardly provoke him to resent, and I have seen him down with his paw the Terrier or cur that has bit him, without offering further injury.

Marquis of Hertford’s crop-eared black Mastiff Pluto, 1830, public domain.

Next week, the rest of the popular breeds of the Regency era. Stay tuned!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Book-Keeper

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Book-Keeper

I love books.

Old books. New books. Fat books. Skinny books. Print books. Ebooks.

It’s always a good time to be reading. But when you go to your shelves, virtual or otherwise, and can’t find that book whose world you’d like to revisit…well…that changes everything.

Book-Keeper

One who never returns borrowed books.

As Shakespeare had Polonius counsel his son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend.” I have a friend who lend books like a full-on library: you fill out a card, and she chases you down with reminders when the time for borrowing is over. I used to tease her about this until I loaned one of my favorites to a relative only to have said relative have no recollection of ever borrowing my book. Insult to injury followed when this supposedly unknown-yet-inscribed-with-my-name book showed up as her contribution to a white elephant gift exchange the very next Christmas.

Well. That was nervy.

I put her on my naughty list from then on. I’m like Mr. Darcy: My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. At least concerning ill treatment of my book babies.

The Circulating Library by Isaac Cruikshank, 1804, The British Museum.

During the Regency (and eras before and after), books were still precious commodities, too costly for most to purchase outright. Booksellers seized on the ingenious notion to charge a fee to those who could afford to spend something to read a book, yet weren’t quite able or willing to hand over the full purchase price for a tome; the subscription service was born. If books were too expensive to buy, a seller could generate income by lending it out for a fee. A subscription to a circulating library was the perfect indulgence for a lady with some pocket money. The terms of a subscription were clearly spelled out for those who entered into a contract with a bookseller. An advertisement from La Belle Assemblée in 1807 reveals the subscription rates for the Minvera Library in Leadenhall Street:

Terms of Subscription to the Minverva Library, from La Belle Assemblée, 1807.

Lending libraries also became social gathering areas to share favorite tidbits about a newly returned book, offer and receive suggestions for the next borrow, or to simply cozily sit in chairs by the fire. Savvy shop owners turned their stores into comfortable meeting, browsing, and lending shops. And not just in London, but in any town large enough to entice a crowd to make it worthwhile, such as these prints from the resort towns of Scarborough and Margate illustrate.

The Circulating Library in Scarborough, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough, 1813.

Hall’s Library at Margate by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1789, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Circulating libraries had cards for each book that went out with each lender. Some were simple, as the card for Hookham’s shows at the very beginning of this post. Others were very specific, listing the most serious rules to be followed by a borrower.

Liverpool Circulating Library Slip, Circulating Libraries 5, 1738-1803, from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

My favorite example of a Circulating Library is one that is still in existence: Hatchard’s of London. They even offer a subscription service to this day. Hatchard’s has been open at the same address on Piccadilly, a few blocks from the Circus, since 1797. *le sigh*

Hatchard’s at 187 Piccadilly, London.

And look at that adorable signage – book straps for hangers!

Hatchard’s at 187 Piccadilly since 1797,

Take pleasure in a good book, lest a famous author be correct in deeming you intolerably stupid. Just remember to return what you borrow.