Sunday, July 16, 2017

Blog Re-launch tour: Just Don't Get Sick by Joana Starnes


So today, I am welcoming my lovely friend, and wonderful author, Joana Starnes, with her post about illness in the Regency era.

I have known Joana since 2014, when we realised through Facebook that we lived in the same town.  We met for a coffee and the rest is history! We have shared many, many adventures since then, attending the festivals together, going to lectures and talks, visiting National Trust properties, and as many other activities as we could possibly manage - sometimes with the most tenuous Austen connection - but any excuse for sharing a day out together! I am so glad to call Joana a friend, and it is all thanks to our mutual love of Jane Austen. 

So now, it's over to her. Thank you for this excellent and interesting post, Joana! 


When Jane was ill at Netherfield in Lost in Austen do you remember Mr Bingley insisting ‘No-no-no,  Miss Price must stay here, she is the best possible nurse. She has Paracetamols? And well he might rely on Amanda’s paracetamols, because there was precious little he or anyone else could offer as a substitute.

If you ever lay hands on a time machine and set it to the early 1800s be sure to have a healthy supply of painkillers and antibiotics with you, and if you’re not past childbearing age think again before you get the engine running! Mrs Bennet blithely tells her husband that ‘people don’t die of little trifling colds’, and if that held true it was largely thanks to human resilience and not to Georgian medicine.

The best medical attention that Mr Darcy’s ten thousand a year could buy would have been from a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. The charter granted by Henry VIII gave the Fellows and their licentiates the exclusive right to practise in London and for 7 miles around. The College also granted an ‘extra licence’ that permitted the holder to practise as physician outside the 7 mile limit, but the restrictions were difficult to police. As for the degree itself, it was acquired by studying the writings of Hippocrates (400s BC) and Galen (129-216 AD) and it was acceptable to have someone sitting the final examination for you.

Outside of London and the major cities the most common medical practitioner was the apothecary, such as Mr Jones, summoned to Netherfield to attend Jane and prepare draughts, in the absence of paracetamols. In theory, the apothecaries were the equivalent of a modern day pharmacists.

(The Apothecary and his Trade, John White, Bath 2015)

They were supposed to supply medicines rather than prescribe them, but especially in rural areas they might have been the only source of medical attention and acted more or less as general practitioners.

(Visiting the Apothecary, Bath 2015)

Some, the surgeon-apothecaries, would have been apprenticed in performing minor operations such as lancing boils, setting bones, bloodletting and sometimes even amputations.

The training varied widely. At the beginning of the century the successful completion of an apprenticeship was enough for setting up practice and earning a living from dispensing drugs and performing minor surgery. Apothecaries greatly outnumbered doctors, even in major cities. In 1775 Bristol, for example, there were 8 physicians to 56 surgeon-apothecaries.

And their services did not come cheap. Household bills from Dunham Massey, a large estate near Manchester now in the care of the National Trust, show that in 1822 two apothecaries were paid £55 pounds over a 3-month period, at a time when the house steward, the highest-ranking male servant, earned £90 a year and the third housemaid £10 a year.

All well and good. If you’re taken ill in Regency England let’s say you’re lucky enough to afford the best treatment money can buy. Let’s say you can even afford the services of the disciples of one of the most reputable physicians of his day, William Buchan, MD (1729 – 1805), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh and author of the Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases that went through 19 editions, sold 80 000 copies in his lifetime, was translated into the main European languages and among other things earned him a letter of commendation and a gold medal from the Empress of Russia.

                                                                               William Buchan, MD

If Georgian medicine is your thing and you’ve skimmed through the Treatise for fun, you will have discovered that some of Dr Buchan’s principles were surprisingly in tune with modern concepts. He believed that cleanliness, exercise and a sensible diet keep people healthy; that fresh air is beneficial in the sickroom; that feverish patients shouldn’t be covered with too many blankets, and that the number of visitors to the sickbed should be kept to a minimum in order to limit the risk of infection. Also, he maintained that mothers should nurse their babies if at all possible, and if a nurse is hired the mother should keep a close eye on her offspring’s welfare rather than abandoning her newborn child ‘to the sole care of a hireling.’ He argued that babies should not be swaddled and that suitable clothes allowing free movement should be used both for children and adults. Also, that young ladies warmed by exercise after a long night of dancing should not then gad about outdoors in their thin muslins without suitable wraps if they cared for their health. There are whole chapters dedicated to cleanliness, intemperance, the risks posed by wet clothes and wet feet, as well as the problems caused by succumbing to strong emotions like anger, fear, grief and love. If you have a really quiet afternoon, look up Dr Buchan’s Treatise on the Internet and glance over the introductory chapters. Poor Mr Darcy, he had no idea, had he, of the medical dangers he exposed himself to when he allowed himself to be ruled by passion!

Sadly, most of the treatment sections of the Treatise make grim reading. The germ theory of disease would not emerge for another five decades or so after Dr Buchan’s death. The all-prevailing belief in Georgian times was that disease was caused by an imbalance in the Hippocratic four humours: blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm, and treatment should be aimed at restoring that balance. How? Why, by relying on time-honoured methods, of course: bleeding, vomiting, purgation, applying irritants on the skin to cause blisters and thus extract the poisons from the body and other similar measures that leave the modern reader in wonder that patients survived the cure, as well as the condition. Calomel (mercurous chloride) was liberally prescribed as a purgative. Everyone swore by Laudanum (tincture of opium, approximately 10% opium equivalent to 1% morphine) and it was considered highly beneficial in treating most things, from palsy to nervous dispositions, all the way to calming down babies and children who grizzled too much.

What about Miss Bennet’s fever? If the heat of the body is very high, 40-50 drops of sweet spirit of nitre should be made into a draught, with an ounce of rosewater, two ounces of common water, and half an ounce of syrup. And prompt bleeding is of the greatest importance in cases such as these!

But you may be reassured to hear she must also drink plenty of diluting liquors such as water-gruel, or oatmeal-tea, clear whey, barley-water, apple-tea or orange-whey, deemed an excellent cooling drink.

Heaven forefend that the condition should worsen and affect the lungs! In that case a man would benefit from losing 12-14 ounces of blood (but less if the patient is a female of a delicate constitution). And if there is violent pain to the chest it should be alleviated with a fomentation made by ‘boiling a handful of the flowers of the elder, camomile and common mallows or any other soft vegetables, in a proper quantity of water’. Leaves of various plants such as cabbage might also be applied warm to the patient’s side ‘with advantage.’

Mustard whey is beneficial in nervous fevers (Mrs Bennet must have required a steady supply) but Dr Buchan also argues that in nervous disorders exercise is superior to all medicines. Anything goes: riding on horseback is considered the best, but walking or riding in a carriage might work as well, as would a trip to the sea or even a sea voyage. Maybe Mrs Bennet knew what she was talking about when she thought that a little sea-bathing would set her up for good.

Dr Buchan has a lot more to say about all manner of conditions, but I’d much rather not put you off your dinner. Have a look through his Treatise if you’re of a strong constitution and if you’re lucky enough to go time-travelling to Regency England just don’t get sick!

* * * * * *

J J Rivlin ‘Getting a Medical Qualification in England in the Nineteenth Century’

P Hunting ‘History of the Society of Apothecaries’

Pamela Sambrook ‘A Country House at Work’, 2003

Wm Buchan ‘Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases’, 1785
Images from ‘So You Think You’re Sick’ – a talk and demonstration by John White at the Jane Austen Bath Festival 2015 (photos J Starnes).


Twenty lucky winners will receive a prize from my giveaway, ranging from books and audiobooks, to jewellery, prints, and more! I will randomly draw a number of winners, who will have their choice of the prizes in selection order. 

How to enter: 

1. Comment on any of the posts throughout my re-launch - one comment per post counts as an entry! 
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**IMPORTANT** Please leave your email address, Facebook name, Twitter name, Youtube name or whatever is needed so I can keep track of and check all entries as there are many ways to gain entries. If you are a lucky winner, I will be in touch by email to sort out the prize. 

Good luck! And a massive thank you to my dear friend Joana for that informative post - personally, I suspect I never would have survived in the Regency era! 

Other posts from my re-launch tour - comment on each one for more entries to the giveaway!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Blog Tour: Mendacity & Mourning by Jan Ashton - with giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Jan Ashton's latest release, Mendacity & Mourning.  My thanks also goes to Janet Taylor for inviting me to take part.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.

I’m so happy to be here at Laughing With Lizzie. Thanks for hosting me, Sophie!

This vignette has two parts of a longer post-epilogue story I wrote for Mendacity & Mourning and posted at A Happy Assembly. I’ve edited it a bit to avoid major spoilers, but you can find it on myMeryton Press blog. Hope you enjoy!

An Awful Object On A Holiday Eve

Darcy leaned back into the wall, arms crossed, brow furrowed.

“I dread this, you know. Michaelmas was lovely, and the harvest ball the best of recent years. Must we truly stay two nights in Kent?”

Elizabeth, her attention focused on their youngest child’s reddened gums and unhappy disposition, glanced up at her husband. Her impatience warred with amusement as she gazed at his expression.

“Such a sad face, Fitzwilliam. You and your sons look remarkably similar when unhappy.”

“If you wish me to tuck in my lower lip, I will argue your point. I prefer to put it to far better use.” Darcy pushed off the wall and joined his wife on the settee. He looked fondly at the teary-eyed bundle in her arms. “Will he sleep tonight? Our other children were more skilled at their nightly duties.”

“No they were not, they would settle for their nurses. Alexander is less amenable to arms that are not mine.”

“Well then yes,” her husband replied smugly, “he is a child most like me.”

Elizabeth put her hand on his thigh. “We have been in Hertfordshire and London for a month now. It is but two days in Kent, and then we can begin our long journey home.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. “It will go quickly; we have been blessed with mild weather.”

He sighed. “True, yet this is our first Christmas away from Pemberley.”

“It shall be the last. I have instructed my mother that apoplexies, or as this was, a hint of apoplexy, are not to be had again so close to Christmas.”

“Despite our fears, your father is hale and well and eager to regain his seat in Pemberley’s library.”

“As am I, Fitzwilliam. My seat, my bed, my home….” She relished the heated look her pouting husband swept over her.

“But first to Rosings,” he sighed.

“Oh do cheer up. The children will enjoy their cousins, and Richard has hidden flasks and bottles on the grounds, yes?”

He nodded.

“You have reminded James and Henry about the proper direction of eyeballs and that pointing is ungentleman-like behaviour?”

He nodded.

“You have reminded Richard about the proper direction of eyeballs and that pointing is ungentleman-like behaviour?”

He laughed.

“Then all is as it should be. Our children cannot wear blinders and be sheltered from the onslaught of joy decking Rosings’ halls.”

“Nor can we protect them from what may already stir in them,” Darcy said glumly. “Their Fitzwilliam blood.”

“Hush” she cried. “They are equal bits of Darcy and Bennet and Gardiner as well, and I dare say that it is a good thing to see one family’s eccentricities overpower those of another. None of our children, those that can speak, anyway, talk incessantly of fruit nor do any appear frail of mind or body.”

“We are fortunate,” he replied gravely. “Thus far.”

Elizabeth, smirking, gave a dramatic sigh. “Mayhap we should keep our perfect family small and add no more babies? Five be enough?”

He looked at his wife, considering her proposal.

She stood and walked to the cradle, placing Alexander inside and arranging the blankets around his sleeping form. “If we determine the risk is too great, we must stop those practises that might create another child.”

Darcy started and practically jumped to his feet. “How impertinent you are! That is advice best given to Bingley and your sister!”

Elizabeth bit her lip. Hardly twelve years married and Jane was confined with her eighth child. Or, from the manner in which she carried it, perhaps numbers eight and nine. She and Darcy had thus far produced five, and that handful was enough…for the present. Already she suspected another arrival in the new year.

The touch of her husband’s hand on hers recollected Elizabeth from her musings. “We are incapable of creating any child short of perfection,” Darcy said, tenderly stroking his young son’s hair. “Even this one, he cries only because he craves his mother. As do I. Often and always.”


“It goes unsaid.”

“Say it.”

“I want and desire you.”

Elizabeth’s lips curled into a mischievous smile. Her eyes sparkled, and Darcy was aflame. Nearly twelve years together, and he knew her signals. He knew her sighs, her smiles, her scent. His senses and sensibilities were in harmony with hers. She knew all of him as well, and she knew he needed soothing. Her fingers traced the edge of his waistcoat. She felt more than heard his sharp intake of breath.

“Wonderful man, now that Alexander is in his bed, please take me to mine.”

“Ours.” His nose nuzzled hers.

“See, my Darcy? Always up for a healthy debate.”


There truly was nothing Richard enjoyed more than to be the last arrival at a family party. The adults would be settled, with a drink or two coursing through and calming their blood. The children would have spent their energies greeting one another, their ranks thinned by absence of the nappers, the tantrum throwers, and the easily distracted, who had been put to bed, exiled to the nursery, or wandered off. Strolling downstairs in a freshly brushed coat to an unusually quiet house, Richard’s throat and soul were parched for liquid spirits. In search of his safest hiding place, he walked into Rosings’ smallest sitting room. There he chanced upon Darcy with two of his children perched on his lap as he read to them from Aesop’s Fables. Richard noted the expressions on the youngsters, a mere three and five years of age, were as stupefied as his upon learning the sad fate of the dog who, confused by his own reflection in the water, lost his lambchop when he opened his jaw to steal the other pup’s meat.

“Papa,” cried Henry. “The poor thing went to bed hungry.”

“Because he was greedy,” Darcy said firmly but gently.

“No, he was stupid.” The five-year-old’s lip quivered.

“He was a dog, son. Acting on instinct and without thought.”

Emma burst into tears.

Richard leapt into action. “I say, Darcy. Why does Elizabeth ever leave you alone with her children?”

The tears evaporated. “Uncle Dickie!” Henry launched himself from his father’s lap to Richard’s leg. The bad leg. The one that had endured horse kicks, a poorly aimed sword, a dog bite, and a log burn. God, he hated France and its Frenchmen. The women, though…so skilled, so blessed by glorious assets, and so generously talented in sharing them.


 Ah, children…

He winced through his smile and leaned over to pick up the lad. Emma remained, wide-eyed, on her father’s lap.

Darcy greeted him with a grimace. “Hello Dickie. Prompt as ever, I see. Tell me again how you made general if you cannot tell time?”

“Remind me how you keep churning out moppets if you cannot—.”

“Children,” Darcy cried. “I have a special message for you to deliver to Mama.” He bent over and kissed Emma’s cheek before setting her on the floor. “Petal,” he said gently, his fingers straightening her ribbon, “please go with Sally and give that kiss to Mama. I believe she is with your Aunt Georgiana in the music room.”

His daughter hugged him. “Yes, Papa.”

Henry frowned. “But Uncle Dickie is here. I want to see his swords and wounds.”

Richard patted his head. “No gaping gashes this time, my boy. But I do have a tale to tell of an angry bore.”

Henry’s mouth dropped open. “Oh my! A wild boar?”

Emma gasped and ran over, seizing and pulling her brother’s dangling foot. “With sharp teeth and hot hungry breath?”

“The very kind,” Richard said, winking at Darcy. His cousin rolled his eyes before nodding at the young woman who had appeared in the doorway.

Richard tossed Henry in the air before settling the boy on his feet. “Off with you, soldier. Upon the orders of your father and his superior officer!”

“Go now with Sally, children. Please give Mama my message, Emma.”

With a wave and a whirl, the Darcy children skipped out of the room. Their father leaned back in his chair and watched them adoringly before turning angrily toward his cousin. “How lovely you are, arriving here simply to frighten my children. Please describe this ‘angry boar.’ Is it one I might recognise?”

“All too well, I fear. Aunt Catherine and her hot hungry breath has Father in a tizzy. He despises this place and losing his holiday hosting perch has him greatly unsettled.”

Darcy nodded, his voice calmer. “Yet he has chosen to come here.”

“Choice is an odd word, cousin.” Richard’s eyes scanned the room, taking in its cosy warmth and decided lack of family portraiture. No wonder Darcy has taken refuge here; it is safe for children and those of refined sensibilities. “My mother has chosen to be at Rosings. My brother and his family are here, as am I. Thus, choice is no longer my father’s.”

“Hmm. So, why are we here?”

Richard stared at the contented philosopher of Pemberley. Wonderful, he is all about the thinking and I just wish to start the drinking. Now where is that damn bottle of port?

Author Bio:

Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.

Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and anotherdecade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, andenjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America. 

Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.

Contact Info:

Buy Links:

Blog Tour Schedule:

06/19Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21Half Agony, Half Hope;Review, Excerpt
06/22From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23More Agreeably Engaged;Vignette, GA
06/24Just Jane 1813;Review, GA
06/25Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
07/01Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03Diary of an Eccentric;Review

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.
A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Mendacity & Mourningby J. L. Ashton. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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My thanks again goes to Jan for these sweet vignettes! My thanks also to Janet for setting up this tour.

I wish Jan all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!