The Speckled Monster in Regency Society ~ Guest Post by Shirley Raye Redmond

While enjoying Regency romances with their witty dialogue and ton parties,
one seldom considers the dark and often fatal shadow which loomed over
those that lived during that time period—small pox, often referred to as
“the speckled monster.” The disease killed hundreds of millions of
people—more than the Black Death and the wars of the 20th century put
together!
A woman who was considered a great beauty during this time period was
usually one who had not been seriously disfigured by smallpox. It was
understood by portrait artists of the day that they were not to paint in
the disfigurements and pockmarks of their subjects. Edward Jenner was the
British physician responsible for the first smallpox vaccine. His wife was
a Sunday School teacher who held classes in their home.
AP PruJane Austen’s dearest friend Martha Lloyd was scarred by smallpox for the
remainder of her life. Several members of the Lloyd household died from
the disease. A character in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is disfigured
and crippled by the dreaded disease.
But most writers of Regency novels do not mention small pox even though
one in four people died from the disease during this time period. I
decided to make the subject a key factor in the plot of my new
inspirational, PRUDENCE PURSUED and addressed the issue right away on the
first page.

Excerpt from Prudence Pursued: 

“You should not wear that to the pox party,” Prudence Pentyre said, indicating her younger cousin’s dress of light green Italian silk. “I recommend something with short sleeves which allows you to expose your forearm to the lancet.”

 

Margaret shuddered. Her plain face, pale and lightly freckled, appeared downcast. “Oh, Pru, I wish I didn’t have to go.” She stood, slender shoulders drooping, in front of her open wardrobe.

 

“Truly, Meg, there’s nothing to worry about,” Prudence assured her, slipping a comforting arm around her cousin’s slim waist. “Papa had all of us vaccinated with the cow pox when we were still in the school room—and the servants too. I’m quite surprised my Uncle Giles didn’t do the same,”
Prudence replied.

To find out what pretty milkmaids had to do with Edward Jenner
successfully finding a way to prevent small pox, you’ll have to read the
rest of my novel. For more information about the horrors of the disease, I
recommend The Speckled Monster by Jennifer Lee Carrell (Penguin)

Prudence Pursued
By Shirley Raye Redmond

At the advanced age of twenty-seven, Prudence Pentyre is on the shelf.
Content to occupy her time by attending meetings of Mr. Wilberforce’s
Abolition Society, Prudence is resolved to see that her younger cousin
Margaret, shy and plain, does not share her own unmarried fate.
Despite her best efforts, all of Prudence’s matchmaking attempts fail.
Margaret proves reluctant to accept Sir James Brownell’s marriage
proposal, and fears being “bovinised” if she undergoes the controversial
cowpox vaccination he recommends. And the dashing baronet—with his
sunburned skin, eye patch, and unfashionable attire—seems more concerned
about the plight of headhunters in Borneo than Margaret’s stubborn refusal
of his offer.
Prudence, on the other hand, finds herself unexpectedly smitten with the
man. Can she trust that God’s plan for her life is richer and more
rewarding than the one she had planned for herself?
Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.

What on Earth is Calf’s Foot Jelly? by Susan Karsten

Calf's foot jelly

If you’ve done a significant amount of reading of regency fiction, you’ve come across a female character taking calf’s foot jelly to an invalid, usually someone poor. It was thought to be exceeding nutritious, but that is not necessarily true, according to my research. It was a thrifty, economizing concoction, made from a leftover part of a beef.

Calf’s foot jelly has two forms: sweet, common in 19th-century Britain and America, and savoury–called petcha, a standard of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking. Both dishes start with a long braise of split cow’s feet. The latter (for a sickroom concoction) adds garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and usually retains the meat that falls from the feet; the former (for a dessert) adds sugar, Madeira wine, brandy, cinnamon and citrus, and discards the meat. In both cases the stock is chilled until it sets, and the fat that rises to the top is skimmed.

The key component of both is collagen–a protein found mainly in connective tissue, in which feet abound. Collagen makes meat tough, but it also makes the same cut, after stewing, silky and rich. Smart cooks have long begged chicken feet from the butcher: they give chicken soup extra body. Hot, collagen imparts richness; chilled, it turns to gelatin.

To boil it down/summarize: Stock made by boiling a calf’s foot in water; which sets to a stiff jelly on cooling. It consists largely of water and gelatin, so is of little nutritional value.

Note: The New Female Instructor strongly advises against the addition of wine when the jelly is to be used for an ill person. Lemonade was often given to an ill-person along with barley water and tea.

To the readers, have you come across this, and wondered? To the fellow-Regency writers, have you ever included a character delivering this to a poor sick person?

104_2304Susan Karsten, regency blogger, author

Curing the Cough and Soothing the Sniffles

Kristi here. If your home is anything like mine, there have been plenty of sniffs and snuffles passing through this winter. The headaches, congestion, and overall achiness can range everywhere from the annoyance of the common cold to the seriousness of pneumonia.

Today, we know the difference between the flu and a cold, bronchitis and a sinus infection,  and a tension migraine and a sinus headache. Or at least, our doctor knows the difference and can help us with the right concoction of pills and vitamins to get us through the discomfort.

The suffering Regency inhabitant was not so fortunate.

Treatment Page from Cookbook
Beginning of the treatment section of a cookbook

The scientific study of medicine was just coming into existence as the Regency rolled around. Knowledge of germs and nutrition and the importance of cleanliness were mere inklings of ideas in the heads of the most advanced medical minds of the time. And these men (for they were almost exclusively men) were often scoffed at for their new ideas and practices.

Because medicine was still working to organize and legitimize itself, healthcare fell on the shoulders of the people, or more specifically the women. Cookbooks of the day would contain recipes for home remedies that could be mixed or cooked to aid the ailing.Mothers would also pass down time-honored practices for various diseases, leaving people at the time with a mix of rudimentary science, folk remedy, and medieval traditions. Physicians were so rare and costly that one had to be very rich or near death to call upon one.

So how did they handle the fevers and the sniffles?

Woman sick in bed reading
Michael Ancher, via Wikimedia Commons

Without decongestants and pain relievers, they were forced to take to their beds for however long it took the body to overcome the bacteria or virus. Because many congestion related disorders were thought to be brought on by cold or damp conditions, sick rooms were often kept warm and dry, with little to no air circulation.

The old axiom “Feed a cold, starve a fever” was also prescribed to, with some ailing patients being restricted to diets of bread and water in the hopes of purging the bodies of the disease.

Some households would have knowledge of herbs and be able to ease the pain with concoctions of willow bark tea while others preferred to drink themselves into oblivion until the worst of the illness had passed.

Other interesting treatments of the time included inducing copious amounts of sweating, stuffing orange rinds up the nose, and colonic irrigation, or cleansing of the bowels.

The second half of the 1800s showed the beginnings of the cold remedies that resemble what we see today. While medicines involving heroin and chloroform have been eradicated, the Vicks Vapour Rub introduced in 1890 is still pretty much the same.

Want to learn more about the history of medicine in England? Check out the online museum from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. You can link directly to the paper on the common cold here.

Be sure to come back Wednesday, when Jillian Kent will be here at Regency Reflections sharing about her latest book, Mystery of the Heart, which incorporates the quickly changing field of medicine during the Regency time period. Stop by and enter to win a copy of her book.

Other sources used for this article include All Things Austen: An Encyclopedia of Austen’s World, The House-keeper’s Pocketbook, and Compleat Family CookLiveStrong.com, and DukeHealth.org.