Hardy the Physician: Medical Aspects of the Wessex Tradition by T. Fincham

By T. Fincham

Used to be Thomas Hardy clinically depressed or simply syphilitic? was once Egdon Heath imbued with melancholic vapours? And does this clarify why a lot of his characters suffered from melancholy, took their very own lives or built homicidal traits? This booklet by way of a rural GP explores those and lots of different clinical concerns in Hardy's existence and works.

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Marcus 1964: 234) The voice of the ‘New Woman’ but never uttered – for Grundyian reasons – in these terms by Bathsheba or Eustacia or Sue Bridehead. But why didn’t Alec d’Urberville or Charles Raye use a condom? Failing that, why didn’t Tess or Anna procure an abortion? Contraception was very definitely not on the agenda in the ‘shiftless house of Durbeyfield’, where reliance was placed rather on the Wordsworthian ‘Nature’s Holy Plan’ (TD 19), but both Alec and Raye were young men about town who should have been cognisant with such matters.

Damp often gives rise to cold. A damp house or room, or a house with a damp cellar is an abomination. Nothing can be more Hardyan Illness 39 prejudicial to a person’s bodily welfare than sleeping in a damp bed. Prolonged bathing often gives rise to cold. (Physicians 1883/4:180–1). Doctors, as I have suggested, may just be reflecting back the prejudices of the society that pays their fees. This whole vast empire of ‘catching cold’ was completely demolished over the ensuing century by scientific ‘evidence-based’ medicine, but is medical pseudo-science really no more than a continuing effort to ‘keep the customer satisfied’?

Although it encouraged women to enjoy sex at mid-cycle, it was claimed by ‘Dr William Hitchman of Liverpool’ to have only a ‘5 per cent failure rate’. The medical profession could not cope with this degree of frankness about a problem, which was of major – and often life-threatening – importance to much of the population, so the General Medical Council prosecuted Dr Allbutt. At a disciplinary hearing in November 1887, the full Council of 26 eminent men resolved that: (a) He had published, and publicly caused to be sold a work entitled The Wife’s Handbook in London and elsewhere, at so Obsextrics 21 low a price as to bring the work within the reach of the youth of both sexes to the detriment of public morals.

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