The flu season is in full swing and whilst many of us will be heading to the doctors or staying at home in bed, those who had the misfortune to be ill during the Victorian period had different methods of self-treatment. In Rules for Simple Hygiene, compiled by Dawson W. Turner (1815–1885), Head Master of The Royal Institution School at Liverpool, a set of 23 rules were given for hygiene along with remedies for 40 accidents and diseases.
According to such rules a person should:
“eschew all hot and heavy suppers unless [they] wish for an attack of nightmare”
“not plaster down [their] hair with hog’s lard . . . the hair is meant to assist in carrying off perspiration and should not be clogged with grease”.
And when having a wash in the morning be sure to
“put your face deep into the basin; open and shut your eyes two or three times looking at the bottom of the basin . . . turn the head on one side, in turns, and fill each ear with cold water, shake the head and the water will run out”.
Many of these rules would be seen today as entertaining rather than informative but at the time they were taken more seriously. Revised and corrected by “seven eminent Medical Men” who had some connection with hospitals in London and Liverpool, Rules for Simple Hygiene was produced from 1869 and ran to seven editions, the second of which is held here in the University Archives in poster form.
Other collections within Special Collections and Archives relate to the health of the public and the progress of medical knowledge, for example the Liverpool pamphlets collected by the Liverpool surgeon Thomas Dawson. Two volumes are devoted to Medicine, including the Report of cases before the Liverpool Pathological Society, Session 1843-4. The drawing shown here depicts a lung suffering from gangrene which was drawn from the pathological findings of a 31-year-old market-woman who had been suffering from bronchitis.
These and other collections of Medical books, all of which can be searched through the Special Collections & Archives webpages, give an insight into how illnesses were interpreted and treated.
Sian Wilks, Archivist