Doctor, Doctor

My poor boyfriend is ill.

It started yesterday with a complaint of back ache, followed this morning by a sore throat, runny nose and puppy dog ‘have-pity-on-poor-me’ eyes.

Unfortunately, Mrs Beeton doesn’t list ‘man flu’ in the index of her chapter, ‘The Doctor‘.  However, by close questioning and logical deduction, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s suffering from a wee bit of a cold.

Before turning to modern remedies, I took a look at what Household Management has to offer.


TO CURE A COLD.—Put a large teacupful of linseed, with 1/4 lb. of sun raisins and 2 oz. of stick liquorice, into 2 quarts of soft water, and let it simmer over a slow fire till reduced to one quart; add to it 1/4 lb. of pounded sugar-candy, a tablespoonful of old rum, and a tablespoonful of the best white-wine vinegar, or lemon-juice. The rum and vinegar should be added as the decoction is taken; for, if they are put in at first, the whole soon becomes flat and less efficacious. The dose is half a pint, made warm, on going to bed; and a little may be taken whenever the cough is troublesome. The worst cold is generally cured by this remedy in two or three days; and, if taken in time, is considered infallible.


It all sounds rather fascinating,(and where can I get a piece of real liquorice in 2010?) but I can’t say I have the time or inclination to put together such a concoction when a speedy cure is required.  Although, I have to admit that I can see the merits of using a purely natural remedy, as opposed to something full of sweeteners and chemicals from the local pharmacy.

While reading through the section ‘The Doctor‘, I came across some rather amusing – and apparently quite common – Victorian ails.  This one is my absolute favourite:

Hysterics.—These fits take place, for the most part, in young, nervous, unmarried women. They happen much less often in married women… (the fastest way to get a ring on my finger if ever I heard one)

And how about this one:

How to Bleed: In cases of great emergency, such as the strong kind of apoplexy, and when a surgeon cannot possibly be obtained for some considerable time, the life of the patient depends almost entirely upon the fact of his being bled or not. We therefore give instructions how the operation of bleeding is to be performed, but caution the reader only to attempt it in cases of the greatest emergency. (‘…his being bled or not…’ – so ‘she’ wouldn’t be bled in an emergency, too?)

It’s not entirely fair of me to poke fun of the entire medical chapter, because there are some wonderful pieces of advice mixed in. For starters, I intend to try this cure tonight on my two blue bruised knees (a result of ice-skating for the first time in 20 years):

BRUISES AND THEIR TREATMENT.—The best application for a bruise, be it large or small, is moist warmth; therefore, a warm bread-and-water poultice in hot moist flannels should be put on, as they supple the skin. (However, it would take a very brave soul to try out the advice given in the very next sentence, “If the bruise be very severe, and in the neighbourhood of a joint, it will be well to apply ten or a dozen leeches over the whole bruised part, and afterwards a poultice…”)


I opted instead – to my boyfriend’s great relief – for some hot chicken soup from the local Chinese take-away, as well as plenty of love and attention.  If not the speediest of cures, at least he can’t say it isn’t a pleasant one!


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