Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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  • Tags: Mobility

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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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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…

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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…

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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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Dinah Mulock Craik’s (1826-1887) novel John Halifax, Gentleman (1856) follows John Halifax’s journey from an impoverished orphan boy to self-made tradesman hero. As their friendship unfolds, Phineas Fletcher, the novel’s disabled first-person…

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“Under Chloroform,” an unsigned article on amputation written by surgeon Henry Thompson, was published in the first volume of the popular literary magazine, The Cornhill. At the time, Thompson, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of…

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Charles Manby Smith (1804–80) was a writer fascinated by and deeply concerned with the position of “cripples” in Victorian society. In the second edition of his most famous work Curiosities of London Life: Or, Phases, Physiological and Social,…

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Our Mutual Friend, first published in serial form from 1864–1865, is a novel that literalises George Henry Lewes’s observation that Charles Dickens’s characters are wooden puppets that are brought to life by incident (“Realism and the Art of…

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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…

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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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