Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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  • Tags: Invalidism

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Invalidism may seem to limit mobility, confining one to the four walls of the sickroom. But, for those who were well enough and wealthy enough, the Victorians actually made an industry of travelling for the sake of one’s health. Thus, far from…

cropped illustration from The Pillars of the House.jpg
One of Charlotte M. Yonge’s last great family sagas, The Pillars of the House (1873) prominently features disability. Several of the thirteen orphaned Underwood siblings experience disability or chronic illness: Felix, the eldest, struggles against…

Bath Chair Advert.jpg
In this advertisement for a variety of what we would now call “wheelchairs” or “lounge chairs,” J. Alderman offers “comfort for invalids” in his newly patented “Imperceptibly Graduating, Mechanical, and…

Heir of Redclyffe Illustration.pdf
The Heir of Redclyffe (1853) was Charlotte M. Yonge’s first bestseller, establishing her reputation as an enjoyable as well as an improving novelist; as one critic wrote nearly twenty years later, “Anything written by the author of ‘The Heir of…

Christmas Carol Want and Ignorance.jpg
One of the most recognizable characters in Victorian fiction, “Tiny Tim” Cratchit reappears each Christmas in radioplays, television, stage, and film. Through these cultural reproductions, Tim has come to represent yuletide charity and the…

DaveyMesmerism.jpg
Mesmerism[1] was the term used by Victorians for the procedure during which the practitioner, or mesmerist, would fix his or her (usually his) gaze on a subject or make passes over their body in order to treat and even cure disabilities and illnesses…

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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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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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In 1887, Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), the American photographer, published Animal Locomotion: An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movement, an eleven-volume collection of photographs of instantaneous or…

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Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers (1857), the second novel in his “Chronicles of Barsetshire” series, details the public ecclesiastic conflicts between the newly powerful Evangelicals of the Church and the reigning Tory conservatives.…
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