Next week I will be joining C. Allyn Pierson at the Romance Writers of America National Conference for a workshop/speech titled, “What’s With the Bloodletting? Medical Care in England Before 1900.” Both C. Allyn and I are in the medical profession in our “other, real” lives so this was great fun for us. We are covering the main 4 medical practitioners of the day – physician, surgeon, apothecary, and midwife/accoucheur – as well as touching on the big medical advances that happened. It is a talk that could easily take a week to present thoroughly that we are squeezing into about 50 minutes. Not easy! I have learned so much and am going to share my favorites as the educational thrust of this blog. Additionally, I want to encourage everyone to read on to the end of this post because I have several announcements to share.
Much of what she wrote on in those two posts will comprise our talk at the RWA. I took over the task of focusing on the apothecary and the midwife. Not quite as scary but definitely interesting!
“O true Apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
In Pride and Prejudice the apothecary Mr. Jones is called to aid the ill Jane Bennet. No doubt Austen’s low opinion shone through when she wrote that “no country advice could be of any service” followed by Mr. Jones diagnosing Jane’s violent cold “as might be supposed” and the advice to “return to bed” and promise for “some draughts” not particularly wow-inducing! At the time of P&Ps writing this opinion of a country apothecary was probably typical. But change was coming.
Apothecaries have been in every culture on down through the ages. It is an honored profession, even far in the ancient past, with thousands of years of herbal knowledge and experimentation behind it. In England the apothecary was originally part of the Grocers Guild, those folks who were in charge of licensing all merchants who sold edible-related goods. This became a big problem because basically anyone could obtain a license to set up a shop and sell pharmaceutical concoctions without taking the job seriously. Those who did were the oft referred to “quacks” who made wild claims of healing and called themselves “doctors” in some cases. This gave a very bad name to the legitimate apothecary who studied and performed his profession honorably. On top of that, being part of the tradesman class meant they could never be taken seriously as a medical professional.
Via a series of steps the apothecaries would change not only their place as a vital part of the medical system but the entire practice of medical care in England.
First was in 1617 when they were granted a royal charter by King James I, breaking from the Grocers Guild to become an autonomous group: The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Then, in 1673 they founded the Chelsea Physick Garden in London. This immense garden not only contained Europe’s richest collection of exotic healing plants from all of the world, it was also a place of shared learning and experimentation. You can still visit the Garden today.
Step three was a landmark case against the Royal College of Physicians in 1704 when apothecaries in London were granted the right to not only dispense medications but also to prescribe based on diagnosing a patient’s symptoms. Out of necessity apothecaries, often working alongside surgeons, had been doing this anyway. Winning this case legalized the practice and gave them the prestige they wanted.
However, there were still no standards of practice, regulated medications, or anything mass produced. To a degree this was great since the serious apothecary was also a chemist and researcher whose duty was to strive for improved health and healing through drugs. Being able to freely experiment was a boon. The bad part was the proliferation of the aforementioned quacks. This negative image affected all apothecaries.
So, with reform in mind, the Society of Apothecaries led the charge and in 1815 The Apothecaries Act was passed by Parliament. This act established a professional system of strict education, examination, and registration of not only ALL apothecaries in London but throughout ALL of the UK! This was unprecedented and a significant, radical shift toward the regulated medical care of modern day England, thanks to the apothecary. It also broadened their roles from mere drug-dispensers to “general practitioners” who could diagnose and treat the sick completely independent of a physician but with exacting standards and proven education behind them.
By the late 1800s the English apothecary made and sold medical ingredients, gave general medical advice and performed a wide range of medical related services. They were, and still are today, the equivalent of a pharmacist, herbalist, chemist, minor surgeon, midwife, and caregiver rolled into one.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Come back on the 18th for info on midwives and accoucheurs. Now, read on for some news from me.
Unfortunately only registered RWA conference attendees can be present at the speech C. Allyn and I are giving. However, if you live in the general Southern California area you can visit me at the ProLiteracy Autographing.
2012 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing
Wednesday, July 25, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
If you live anywhere remotely close to Anaheim, or fancy a trip to Southern CA for a holiday, I encourage you to attend the Literacy Autographing. Not only to see me, but to support this marvelous charity and to meet just about every romance novelist writing today. Click the link to read more details, such as parking and maps, as well as to peruse the loonngg list of authors who will be signing. I will be sitting at table #702 with copies of my books and my gorgeous bookplates to sign for your copies at home.
In other BIG news for me, I am one of the four July Featured Authors at Discover a New Love. As part of this honor my debut novel – Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy - is highlighted and available FREE to club members. Nice! This week is my week, with an interview posted and several fun blog posts. Best of all is the Party with Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly happening on Wednesday, July 18 at 7:00 pm CST (5:00pm PST). This is an interactive, live “chat” style party. I will be there, virtually as it were, to answer questions and converse. Also, there are prizes!! For more information click the link below. Note the date and time, and please join me so I don’t feel lonely!
Today my post on 10 Reasons We Love Mr. Darcy is live. Be sure to pop in and comment. Let’s show the world – and Sourcebooks – that Jane Austen fans are alive and thriving!
On my June 25 blog post I held an “election” for casting the next Pride & Prejudice adaptation. If you missed it the post is HERE. Thanks to all who participated. It was fun and informative. I will probably revisit the topic at a later date, but for now, these are the final results:
Mr. Darcy – Henry Cavill won by a large margin at 37% of the 164 votes cast. Next was Dan Stevens at 27% and Ben Barnes at 16%. Poor Kit Harington, Harry Lloyd, and Tom Riley did not make it into the double digits so are out of the running.
Elizabeth Bennet – Jessica Brown Findlay won at 32% with Emma Watson sitting in second place with 23% of 152 votes cast. Claire Foy got 18%, Emilia Clarke 13%, Holliday Grainger 11%, and Tamzin Merchant only 4%.
There you have it. Can you see them as Darcy and Lizzy?