Curious about Mrs. Bennet’s* delicate nerves, and what exactly that meant in Jane Austen’s time, I found some surprisingly modern viewpoints in this book, published in 1808: A view of the nervous temperament: being a practical inquiry into the increasing prevalence, prevention, and treatment of those diseases commonly called nervous, bilious, stomach & liver complaints, by Thomas Trotter.
Nature has endued the female constitution with greater delicacy and sensibility than the male, as destined for a different occupation in life. But fashionable manners have shamefully mistaken the purposes of nature; and the modern system of education, for the fair sex, has been to refine on this tenderness of frame, and to induce a debility of body, from the cradle upwards, so as to make feeble woman rather a subject for medical disquisition, than the healthful companion of our cares…That it should be rude for an innocent young girl to run about with her brother, to partake of his sports, and to exercise herself with equal freedom, is a maxim only worthy of some insipid gossip, who has the emolument of the family physician and apothecary solely in view. A man of fortune and wealth, when he builds a stable or a dog-kennel for his horses or hounds, takes care that these companions of his field-sports shall be duly preserved sound in wind and limb, by frequent exercise out of doors, when he does not hunt.— But in no part of his premises do you see a gymnasium for his children…But we indulge our boys to yoke their go-carts, and to ride on long rods, while little miss must have her more delicate limbs trampt by sitting the whole day dressing a doll. Ancient custom has been pleaded in favour of these amusements for boys, as we read in Horace : but it is no where recorded, that the infancy of Portia, Arria, and Agrippina was spent in fitting clothes for a joint-baby…
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.