Members Meeting - Nov 21 2015
Medicine in the Regency Era
Dr. Marli Robinson and Dr. Kevin Levere treated us to a very well put together presentation about Medicine in the Regency Period. Dr. Levere even arrived dressed, cravat and all, as a regency period physician which added great interest to our meeting. The presentation began in describing the various levels of medical practitioner that would have been around in Jane's time. The three doctors were the apothecary, surgeon, and physician and there were a large variety of individuals described by Dr. Robinson as the "Allied Health Care Team" and these folks ranged anywhere from nurses and midwives to blacksmiths in the form of tooth-drawers. Unfortunately, there was still a general trend of the treatment for illnesses having as much likelihood of killing off the patients as curing them in medical treatment called "heroic medicine", likely referring to the dramatic elements involved.
"Taking the waters" became a popular treatment for illness and caused a substantial growth in the population at places such as Bath. Sea bathing later became all the rage and resulted in a mass exodus to beach towns such as Brighton. "If one could but go to Brighton" (Mrs. Bennet). With all the blunders made by medical practitioners in the regency period, Dr. Levere reminded us all that without some of the observations and experiences of the doctors in that time we would not be where we are today.
Death and Mourning
After a brief tea, Michelle rose to give an excellent presentation on Death and Mourning in the Regency Period. Life expectancy at that time was around 40 years. There were no funeral parlours or embalming at this time so oftentimes the dead were placed in a room of their home and wrapped in wool. Depending on the time of year and weather, they would be buried at the next opportunity which would be sooner than later during the warmer months. For those with less money, they would be placed in a borrowed coffin and then be buried in a common grave.
Michelle then proceeded to discuss the role of death in Jane's works and how she used the theme in each work. When examined more closely, death plays a significant role in all of the books. Often, it was the death of a parent or the impending death of a parent which was the base of the story and usually the parent who is the more sensible or practical of the parents would be the one to die or to have died.
Even more details on early medical and funereal practices in the Regency Era.