Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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Hydropathy, or “the water cure” was a common treatment for ailments ranging from depression to gastro-intestinal disorders in the nineteenth-century, as well as a form of recreation. It was especially popular in the mid-nineteenth century.…

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In January of 1842, Charles Dickens paid a visit to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, just outside of Boston, MA, as part of his American tour. There he met Laura Bridgman, whom the director of the institute, Samuel Gridley Howe, touted as the…

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This article, which appeared in Charles Dickens's publication All The Year Round in 1864, describes a journalist's visit to the Earlswood Asylum, the first institution for the care of the cognitively disabled in England. It was founded by J Langdon…

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Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a writer and intellectual of the Victorian period. She was best known for her work on political economy, but she was also deaf from childhood and an invalid for six years. She wrote about both of these experiences in…

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Dinah Mulock Craik’s (1826-1887) novel Olive (1850), features a heroine who has a shoulder deformity but who goes on to establish a career as an artist and to win the love of a Scottish minister whom she rescues from religious doubt. Olive was one…

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John Everett Millais’s (1829-1896) The Blind Girl (1856) shows a blind musician with a concertina in her lap, and a little girl, presumed to be her sister, resting on the roadside after a rainstorm. They are on their way toward Winchelsea, whose…

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Journalist Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) began publishing his vast collection of interviews and observations on London street life in the mid-century, in the newspaper the Morning Chronicle in 1849. When the newspaper collapsed in 1850, Mayhew continued…

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Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was a prolific British writer who was famous for his contributions to the genre of “sensation fiction”   including the popular novels The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868). Hide and Seek (1854), from which…

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John Kitto (1804-1854) was a British missionary and writer of religious books who was deafened at the age of 12 by a fall. In his youth, Kitto, who typically worked with his father, a mason, rather than attend school, was also forced to spend time in…

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“Blind Guy Fawkes” is noteworthy for how it both participates in and diverges from a representational pattern.  The introduction into Britain of raised-print books in the first decades of the nineteenth century and the proliferation of finger…
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