Hysteria : the disturbing history by Andrew Scull

By Andrew Scull

The 19th century turns out to were packed with hysterical girls - or in order that they have been clinically determined. the place are they now? The very affliction now not exists. during this attention-grabbing account, Andrew Scull tells the tale of tension - an affliction that disappeared no longer via scientific endeavour, yet via turning out to be realizing and cultural change.

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Willis’s relocation to the metropolis in 1667 proved to be a great success. The erudite if unprepossessing medical man rather belatedly acquired an enviable practice among the fashionable and socially prominent, and, following his death, his writings were soon translated into the vernacular, accelerating the circulation of his somewhat radical ideas about the sources of diseases in general, and of convulsive disorders in particular. Among these Willis numbered, not just epilepsy or the falling sickness, but a cluster of disorders involving the hysterical passions and the hypochondriacal affections.

48 an english m al ady? It was England’s unbridled success, the triumph of its economic and social arrangements, that made hysteria and associated nervous complaints so prominent a part of its medical landscape. “Since our Wealth has increas’d, and our Navigation has been extended, we have ransack’d all parts of the Globe to bring together its whole Stock of Materials for Riot, Luxury, and to provoke Excess . . ”8 The English climate, “the Moisture of our Air, the Variableness of our Weather,” did not help matters.

George Cheyne (1671–1743) in 1732, a year before the appearance of The English Malady—a picture that flatters the corpulent diet doctor. (Wellcome Library, London) of. One is tempted to suggest that he leapt on the bandwagon, but leaping was, of course, not an activity George was actually able to perform. ”1) His own mental anguish, however, had brought him to a certain sympathy with the hysteric and the hypochondriac, and his trolling for suitably affluent patients had already secured him at least one well-connected “nervous” patient, Catherine Walpole, the oldest daughter of the Whig grandee and prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, whose patronage Cheyne secured courtesy of the far more established physician to the aristocracy, Sir Hans Sloane.

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