Friday, March 25, 2011

The Regency, Mad-Doctoring, Romance, and Medicine

I love researching my Regency era novels. For those of you who haven't ventured into this kind of research yet be warned: it's addictive. Of course you have to love history or it might not have the same effect on you.:) I'm a counselor by day and have worked in the mental health field for years so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm fascinated by books like: Undertaker of the Mind: John Monro and Mad-Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England (Medicine and Society) by Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull and Customers and Patrons of the Mad-Trade: The Management of Lunacy in Eighteenth-Century London, With the Complete Text of John Monro's 1766 Case Book by Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull.

PhotobucketI always felt sorry for King George III. Can you imagine losing your mind and your job, let alone the ability to reign as king because of a medical disease that no one even knew existed, let alone had any idea how to treat?

PhotobucketRoy Porter wrote my kind of books: Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine, The Cambridge History of Medicine, Quacks: Fakers & Charlatans in Medicine (Revealing History),Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-industrial Society (Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine), Medical Fringe & Medical Orthodoxy, 1750-1850 (Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine). If you've never heard of him just go to and look up the volumes of books this guy wrote. I think he wrote something like 80 before he died at age 55 not long ago. Porter is an incredible resource.

PhotobucketWhile researching information about the origins of the stethoscope I discovered via Porter's book and the internet that the stethoscope was invented in 1816 by Rene Laennec.

Dr. Laennec had been trying to listen to the heart of an obese woman and because it was necessary for him to put his ear to her bare chest he didn't want to be inappropriate, so he rolled up a newspaper and listened to her heart that way and voila it worked well. He could hear the sounds of the heart more clearly and the history of medicine took a new direction: the development of the stethoscope.


PhotobucketI've read that it was Charles Thomas Haden who brought the stethoscope to England. He became a friend of Jane Austen when he attended her father.

Internet resource:

The movie Miss Austen Regrets depicts a jealous Jane Austen silently fuming over the attentions paid by a young doctor to her 22-year-old niece, Fanny Knight. The doctor, Charles Thomas Haden, is portrayed by Jack Huston, with Olivia Williams as Jane and Imogen Poots as Fanny.

There's so much more I wanted to share with you, but it will have to wait for another post. I hope you've enjoyed this post today and I look forward to sharing more in the future on the subject of fascinating historical medicine.

My novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One will debut on May 3, 2011 and is currrently availabel for preorder at most online bookstores. You can read the first chapter on my website Jillian Kent

Questions: Do you like doing research? Have you ever discovered a historical fact that just blew you away? What historical novel, romance or other, have you read lately that delighted your spirit?


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Great post, Jill. I've never been a big fan of Regency romance, but I can't wait to ready your book. Not that I expect it to be any less Regency, but you've whet my appetite now and I'm curious!

Caroline said...

Jillian, I loved your post. HIstory is so fascinating. I've focused mostly on the early years of 1900's and WWII, but any history catches my attention. I think finding out how historical real people were like is always astounding.


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I love doing research. I've found lots of interesting things when I do research. The most fascinating was bout feeding babies in the late 1800s after the mother dies, and I don't mean hiring a wet nurse.

Martha W. Rogers said...

When doing research for my novel set in 1876, I discovered that Japan suffered a Tsunami that year in July that took 25,000 lives and India had an earthquake killing 250,000 people. I agree with Jill, research becomes addicting.

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Everyone,
I just got back from driving my 18 year old to Indy where she met friends who will be driving to TX for training at the School of Evangelism at the Youth With A Mission program. I tried not to cry the entire trip back to Cincy. :)

Okay Andrea. I'm planning on making you a convert.:) You'll find my books romantic, suspenseful, mysterious, and hopefully addictive, just like the research.

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Caroline,
I don't know about you but when I was in high school I don't remember being very interested in my history class. Of course that may have had something to do with my age and thinking more toward the future than learning about the past. :)

One of the reasons I enjoy writing historicals is not only for the interesting facts but the challenge of making characters come alive within the Regency. I guess it's my own personal strategy of learning what I missed in the classroom but making it a lot more fun.

Jillian Kent said...

Okay Lena,
I want to know the answer about feeding the babies. Not nice to tease.:)

I loved learning more about the stethescope as you can tell from this post.

Jillian Kent said...

Hey Martha,
We're just a bunch of history addicts. There is way too much going on now in the way of earthquakes and tsunami's, another way that history repeats itself.

My hometown of Greensburg, Pa. had a tornado this week. I don't remember anything like that in Westmoreland County as a kid. Now, that's got me wondering about England. Anyone know if they had earthquakes during the Regency in Great Britain?