Around 1815, a cure against distressing, persistent or even untreatable illnesses caught the eyes of many patients on the brink of giving up hope. “Medicated Elephants’ Milk” promised help against nearly all physical evils: venereal diseases, gonorrhoea, noise in the ears, premature waste, blindness, and even grey hair and boldness.
The man behind the miracle was a certain Mr. P. Campbell, supposed Senior Surgeon of the Royal College of London. The medicine enjoyed considerable success.
But were things really as they seemed – or did Mr. Campbell’s genius lay in swindling?
In this post:
- Early Weight Watchers
- The secret knowlegde of the Weighing Book
- Dieting with Lord Byron
A softly rounded, plumb, curvaceous and voluptuous body was considered healthy and beautiful for most of the 18th century. Nevertheless, with the rise of the ideals of ancient Greek in fashion and design, the athletic body of an Olympian shifted into focus. Fashionable skin-tight pantaloons revealed every muscle of the male leg, the perfectly-cut coat looked best on broad shoulders. To create a specific volume, men wore padded under-structures round the shoulders and calves, and a corset helped to accentuate a man’s waist.
The well-proportioned male body became an object of fashion and health. But how to measure the body weight? Bathroom scales were not yet around, not even for the rich. People had to pay to be weighed at the doctors. Thus, it came in handy for High Society men of London that a wine shop started offering the service to its customers for free in 1765. Actually, weighing became extremely fashionable. Continue reading
Dean Mahomet, called ‘Dr. Brighton’
‘Dr Brighton’ was the affectionate nickname given to Dean Mahomet, an Indian immigrant who opened the first commercial “shampooing” vapour masseur bath in Brighton.
“Shampooning”, a type of Turkish bath, gave full relief to ailments such as rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints”. Dean Mahomet’s business proved to be so successful that hospitals referred patients to him and he was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both King George IV and William IV. Continue reading
Medicine chest for travelling
In the Romantic Age modern medical treatment was still in the fledgling stages. The modern era of medicine began with Edward Jenner’s discovery of the smallpox vaccine at the end of the 18th century. It would take nearly another 100 years until Robert Koch discovered the transmission of diseases by bacteria. Penicillin and Aspirin became reliable drugs only in the early 20th century.
Medical treatment was based on herbalism or the ancient Greek theory of “humourism” of the body. Humourism proposed that a body was in good health when its four humours were in balance. These humours were blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. An imbalance of the humours would cause ill health.
If you fell ill in the Romantic Age, what medical treatment could you expect? Continue reading