An Interactive Annotated World Bibliography of Printed and Digital Works in the History of Medicine and the Life Sciences from Circa 2000 BCE to 2022 by Fielding H. Garrison (1870-1935), Leslie T. Morton (1907-2004), and Jeremy M. Norman (1945- ) Traditionally Known as “Garrison-Morton”

16017 entries, 14075 authors and 1941 subjects. Updated: July 11, 2024

MARTINEAU, Harriet

1 entries
  • 12136

Life in the sickroom: Essays by an invalid.

London: Edward Moxon, 1844.

"Life in the Sickroom is one of many first-hand accounts of the experience of being ill written by an invalid.  Martineau was ill for six years, but she found taking on the identity of an invalid a reprieve from the stresses of daily life.  What is interesting about her account, then, is that rather than depicting the difficulties of being ill, she portrays life in the sickroom as a time of rest and reflection, a welcome repose that can lead to time for thought and greater insight. Nor was she unusual in this respect.  Miriam Bailin points out that many Victorians valued illness for the rest and repose it could offer from the stresses of daily life, and that it is perhaps not surprising that the cult of the invalid developed in the wake of the Industrial revolution alongside the “coexistent imperatives of self-discipline, will-power and industriousness” (12). 

Martineau dedicates her work to fellow-invalids whom she imagines will be sympathetic to her experiences in the sickroom, and to her claim that suffering can afford invalids greater insight, especially about the transience of this world. This type of dedication is typical of Victorian writing about invalidism.  As Maria Frawley points out, many Victorian invalids who wrote first-person narratives about their experiences portrayed themselves as lonely sufferers seeking from their “own bed of affliction to console others, envisioned as similarly confined to their sickrooms and in need of solace” (11).  In the following two excerpts, from the chapters on “Life to the Invalid” and the “Power of Ideas in the Sick-Room,” Martineau reflects on invalid’s heightened ability to grasp truisms that may seem farther off to the healthy:  that wealth and status are unimportant, and that it matters less what we do than what we are" (https://archive.org/stream/lifeinsickroome01martgoog#page/n8/mode/2up, accessed 4-2020).

Digital facsimile of the second edition (1844) from the Internet Archive at this link.

 



Subjects: BIOGRAPHY (Reference Works) › Autobiography, LITERATURE / Philosophy & Medicine & Biology