Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer (1856-61)

‘Why do entomologists need a weekly newspaper?’ asked the very first number of the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer in April 1856. This periodical was the work of one man, Henry Tibbats Stainton (1822-91), who ran the Intelligencer at his own expense and acted as the sole editor. The bulk of each issue was devoted to short notices written by correspondents, detailing the insects they had captured and giving exact information regarding the species, appearance, the date, weather conditions, and collecting methods used. In this way, it operated in much the same way as a private correspondence network, though on a much larger scale, with a readership of around 600 at its peak. Insect populations are inherently transitory, varying from week to week – and even day to day – depending on climatic conditions and a host of other factors. Rapid communication between collectors is therefore of paramount importance, and the Intelligencer aimed to provide a means by which entomologists could keep abreast of each other’s activity. Stainton hoped that the quick exchange of information among collectors would allow each individual to work with increased efficiently, completing more work in a single season than had hitherto been possible in two or three.

Insect collecting was widespread hobby among nineteenth-century society.  The readers of the Intelligencer were diverse in terms of class, if not in gender. Stainton himself remarked that no women wrote to the periodical, despite the many women who actively participates in entomology during this period. Costing just a single penny per issue, correspondents to the Intelligencer ranged from working-class collectors, such as the Sheffield razor grinder, James Batty, to gentleman naturalists such as Charles Darwin and John Lubbock. Darwin made use of the periodical on a number of occasions, first enquiring about the pollination of British orchids by certain moth species, but also playfully writing a letter on behalf of his children. This note read: ‘we three very young collectors have lately taken, in the parish of Down, six miles from Bromley, Kent, the following beetles’, and was signed in the names of Francis, Leonard, and Horace Darwin. Francis would later fondly recall this incident in an edited collection of his father’s correspondence.

Darwin Children, Intelligencer, 6, p. 99.

Charles Darwin’s letter to the Intelligencer, written on behalf of his three sons.

Each issue of the Intelligencer consisted of eight pages, and could easily have fitted into a pocket be and taken into the field on a collecting trip. The periodical rarely contained illustrations, as these would have driven up the cost of production, but occasionally woodcuts were included to aid insect identification. For example, the issue for 2nd May 1857 contains an image of Gastropacha ilicifolia – the small lappet moth – which ‘at rest looks amazingly like a dead leaf’. This species is now considered to be extinct in Britain, but at the time of the Intelligencer‘s publication, it could be found by attentive entomologists on ‘Cannoch Chase and the Northern Moors’. The adults emerge during late April and early May, hence why Stainton chose to publish the illustration at this time, thereby training his readers to be observant. He notes that the ‘varied fringes’ of the wings ‘ought to catch the eye of the keen collector: dead and withered leaves are not often marked with such regularity’. The periodical was therefore closely tied to the practices of natural history, with the form and content shaped by such seasonal variations.

Intelligencer pic

A woodcut of the ‘Small Lappet’ moth on the title page of the Intelligencer.

The Intelligencer also facilitated the exchange of specimens, as collectors could place adverts listing the insects they had collected in abundance, and were therefore willing to swap for others. Such a system was open to abuse, and this led to acrimonious debates among readers who felt they had been defrauded of their hard-won specimens. This controversy, along with the strain of single-handedly producing an issue a week, may have been among the reasons Stainton chose to discontinue to the Intelligencer after only five years. Despite its short lifespan, Stainton’s periodical left a considerable void in the periodical market, and there were various attempts to replace it. For example, Thomas Blackburn, a teenager who had first begun to correspond with Stainton through the Intelligencer, began his own (almost identical) periodical entitled the Weekly Entomologist (1861-63).

exchange intelligencer

 A typical exchange advertisement published in the Intelligencer.

The Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer exemplifies how a periodical could bring into being a community of naturalists, despite the many differences between the various readers and correspondents. Those who contributed to the periodical embodied the whole spectrum of nineteenth-century natural history, including those who pursued butterflies for sport and aesthetic pleasure, and those such as Stainton who considered themselves to be rigorous men of science. The practical aspects of collecting specimens were the common thread that bound these individuals together.


Play the Mind Boggling Medical History card game today!


Mind-Boggling Medical History

  • Eating too many bananas makes you grow more body hair by increasing the level of potassium.
  • Maggots are used in hospitals to clean infected wounds.
  • Excessive cycling can cause permanent damage to the muscles in the face.*

Look at the statements above. What do you think when you see them? Do they refer to current medical ideas? Are they medical practices from the past? Or are the theories mentioned entirely fictional?  

These are just some of the weird and wonderful statements we put to people who play Mind-Boggling Medical History, a game developed by Dr Sally Frampton (University of Oxford) and colleagues, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Mind-Boggling Medical History is an educational game which is designed to challenge preconceptions about history and show how ideas in medicine change for a variety of reasons. From floating kidneys and wandering wombs to transplanted heads and dogs who detect diseases, the game challenges players to look at a series of statements and decide which concern current medical practice, which are based on historical ideas or practices no longer used, and which we have … well … just made up! Players can choose from a number of rounds related to different medical themes, including ‘sex and reproduction’, ‘animals’, ‘mind’ and ‘treatment’. We have produced both a physical card pack, available to those working in education, nursing, public engagement and museums, as well as an online version that is freely available to all (https://mbmh.web.ox.ac.uk/home).

Developed in collaboration with the Royal College of Nursing, and drawing on the interdisciplinary work of the ‘Constructing Scientific Communities’ project (headed by Professor of English Literature Sally Shuttleworth), Mind-Boggling Medical History has been created with museum visitors, school students, and University nursing and medical students in mind. Accompanying lesson plans and learning resources for use with GCSE History and BSc Nursing students are available to download for free on our website.

The game is intended to show players how historical theories can prompt questions about current understandings of medicine, the need for health and medical practitioners to stay up-to-date in their field, and the impact that changes in medical knowledge can have on patient care. The game was developed into a more sophisticated resource after playing it with museum visitors at a series of public engagement events in both Oxford and London. The aim is to get people thinking about medicine in its past and present contexts and show that the differences between the two are not always clear or straightforward. Faced with tobacco enemas, heroin-laced medicines and an enthusiastic reliance on smelling urine to diagnose disease, it can sometimes be difficult to see beyond our own incredulity at how illness was treated at different points in the past, and to instead consider why certain theories and practices emerge when they do.

Mind-Boggling Medical History encourages users to look more closely at how ideas change in medicine, how they can often come in and out of fashion (think leeches!) and how modern-day medicine can equally play host to bizarre and unexpected ideas and treatments. Sometimes the truth can seem stranger than fiction.

Contact: sally.frampton@ell.ox.ac.uk

Constructing Scientific Communities:  www.conscicom.org

*A: (1) Fictional; (2) Present; (3) Past

Arabella Kenealy (1859-1938): Medical woman, author and eugenicist

NB: This article contains references to eugenicist ideas and descriptions of miscarriage that readers may find upsetting.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which we typically mark by highlighting the achievements of pioneering women in history. Last year, I appeared in a video for ConSciCom discussing the Victorian medical-woman movement, talking about how early female practitioners paved the way for later generations of women in medicine. There is immense value in highlighting the inspirational activities of our female forerunners; it improves the visibility of women’s history and helps to redress traditionally male-dominated narratives. However, in doing so, we also risk sanitising or erasing more problematic aspects of women’s history. Not all ‘pioneering’ women can or should be treated as proto-feminist icons.

The subject of this profile – Arabella Kenealy, an early medical woman and author, who was also an outspoken eugenicist – deftly illustrates this. As Angelique Richardson has shown, there was considerable interaction between the New Woman and eugenicist movements at the fin de siècle,[1]  and Kenealy was a particularly prolific and extreme spokesperson on degeneration.

Arabella Kenealy

Born in Portslade, East Sussex in 1859, Kenealy was one of eleven children from the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth Kenealy. Her father was a barrister, who earned notoriety for his eccentric conduct when he acted as counsel during the Tichborne Case. The young Kenealy was educated at home, and she later studied at the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1883, she was licensed by the King’s and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland, the first licensing body in the UK to admit women. She went on to practise medicine in London and Watford between 1884 and ‘94.

In 1893, her novel Dr Janet of Harley Street appeared, amid a vogue for fiction about medical women.[2] The narrative tells the story of Phyllis Eve, a young woman who runs away from her dissipated husband on her wedding day. She finds refuge with Dr Janet Doyle, a successful physician who attempts to make Phyllis her protégé.

Dr Janet is a pragmatic, confident and capable medical woman, who has a large and prosperous practice. Yet the story largely perpetuates gender stereotypes. Women doctors were often seen as androgynous or unconventional figures, and Janet fits this archetype – she is masculine in appearance and describes herself as having a ‘neuter-nature’. [3] By contrast, Phyllis is almost hyper-feminine – sensitive, innocent, and highly-strung. Whereas Janet thrives in medicine, Phyllis wilts from the pressures of study. The narrative is interested in medical education and practice, but it is largely concerned with Phyllis’s attempts to escape her reprobate husband and find love with Janet’s cousin, Paul. The story unfolds as a battle between Janet and Paul for Phyllis’s future. He insists that ‘[a] woman like that is made for love and home and children’ rather than ‘skeletons and pharmacopeias’.[4] He is proven right, and the novel implies that only some (atypical) women are suited to medical work.

In an earlier blog post, I profiled one of Kenealy’s contemporaries, Margaret Todd, the author of Mona Maclean, Medical Student (1892). This novel has aged relatively well, retaining much of its humour and charm, and its independent heroine remains sympathetic and engaging. By contrast, Dr Janet now seems distinctly unpalatable and even shocking in places, both in its more restrictive attitude towards gender roles and its scorn towards the working classes. The titular character vehemently warns of the dangers of degeneration, presenting working-class sexuality as a threat. In one scene, she attends poor patients at the hospital, asking the parents of ‘sickly or evilly-disposed children’ if they are ‘not ashamed to have brought such “human rubbish” into existence’.[5]

The novel was also considered rather outlandish at the time of publication, however. Whereas Mona Maclean is a romance in the realist mode, Dr Janet is a sensationalist and melodramatic novel, with a plotline that encompasses a faked death, bigamy, and adultery. In the closing chapters, the titular character even persuades Phyllis’s dissolute husband to commit suicide, to release his young wife from their doomed marriage. Reviewing the novel, journalist Hilda Gregg suggested that this method of dispatching the villain was ‘highly ingenious’, adding that ‘[i]n Miss Kenealy’s opinion, it is also highly moral in character, but this is a matter on which a very different view may be held’.[6]

Shortly after the novel’s publication, Kenealy contracted diphtheria and retired from active medical practice due to ill-health. She increasingly focused on writing both popular fiction and articles for magazines such as The Nineteenth Century and Eugenics Review. In Dr Janet, the eponymous character represents sexual difference as the ‘acme of development’, positing her own ‘neuter-nature’ as an aberration.[7] Kenealy’s later writing espoused similar views on evolution and sex. It implied that Nature was unconcerned with women’s physical or intellectual prowess, and more interested in procreation. Unlike many of her fellow medical women, Kenealy endorsed conventional femininity and gender roles, fearing that women’s work would detract from their most important vocation: motherhood. She presented women as passionless creatures, who needed to conserve their energies for reproduction.[8] Her book Feminism and Sex Extinction (1920), as its title suggests, concentrated on what she perceived as the harmful effects of the women’s rights movement. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) branded it ‘an interesting study in modern sociology’, and one that would confirm the views of those who saw ‘nought but harm in votes for women’.[9]

As with many eugenicists, Kenealy’s fixation with the decline of the national stock included a concern with congenital illnesses, including venereal disease. In 1895, she wrote a letter to the BMJ, which appeared under the title ‘A Question of Conscience’. This is the first known example of a woman doctor attending venereal disease in private practice.[11] The correspondence records a case where Kenealy withheld treatment from a pregnant women with syphilis, who appeared to be approaching a miscarriage. The patient had previously suffered several miscarriages and borne one child with congenital syphilis. Kenealy characterised her patient as ‘a wreck of a young woman’, dehumanising the existing child with reference to its ‘dull misshapen head’.[10] Kenealy asked the BMJ’s readers for their opinion on her handling of the case.

The letter raised questions about medical ethics and morality and Kenealy’s approach drew criticism from some of her contemporaries. The BMJ later printed a letter from A.G. Welsford, who argued that allowing or enabling miscarriages whenever there was chance of inherited disease amounted to ‘a radical method of eliminating unhealthy strains in the race’. He anticipated it would lead to ‘terrible abuses’, and contended that it was not for doctors to decide whether or not a particular life had ‘value’.[12] In a later letter, Kenealy said that she appreciated ‘the position of trust held by the physician’. She denied that she was advocating euthanasia but claimed that practitioners should ‘allow’ Nature to ‘cast off’ a foetus with congenital syphilis.[13]She continued to use graphic and dehumanising language while defending her position. The BMJ shut down further correspondence on the matter, as it often did with lengthy and inflammatory exchanges.

Across her career, Kenealy was recognised as both a woman doctor and an author. Like Todd, her literary and medical identities intersected, though sometimes in less affirmative ways. In 1896, the BMJ printed a critique of her short story, ‘A Human Vivisection’, in which a Professor vivisects a drunk man. An anonymous reviewer lambasted the plotline, suggesting that if a writer who appeared on the Medical Register believed a practitioner capable of such acts, she should ‘publicly […] disassociate’ herself from the profession. If not, she should do other than ‘slander’ her peers.[14] In a rejoinder, Kenealy emphasised her pride in the profession and pointed out that other authors (such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle) were not attacked for their dubious portraits of medical men. The BMJ inserted an editorial apology, saying it regretted any ‘misrepresentation’ as to Kenealy’s intentions.[15] Kenealy remained active in medical, cultural and public spheres. She campaigned against vivisection, giving evidence to the 1912 Royal Commission, and she also became interested in occultism. She died in Marylebone, London in November 1938.

Kenealy is not the type of woman to be reclaimed as a proto-feminist icon. Her views on eugenics and sexual politics make for distinctly troubling reading. While they partly reflect contemporary ideologies, they were also regarded as controversial and even abhorrent by her peers. Nevertheless, it is important to engage with problematic female ‘pioneers’ such as Kenealy. As identified at the outset, simply reifying individuals as inspirational heroines risks oversimplifying and sanitising women’s history. Recently, historian Fern Riddell has highlighted the role violence played in the suffragette movement, discussing how such militancy has been erased in the cultural imagination. Of course, Kenealy in many ways went against this grain, using her platform to decry women’s rights, but she is another figure who proves difficult to accommodate or integrate into our popular narratives of women’s history. To understand fully women’s varied contributions to history, however, we need to engage with a range of attitudes, opinions and behaviours that shaped public and private life.

[1] Angelique Richardson, Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth-Century: Rational Reproduction and the New Woman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 9.

[2] Kristine Swenson, Medical Women and Victorian Fiction (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005).

[3] Arabella Kenealy, Dr Janet of Harley Street (New York: Appleton, 1894), p. 124.

[4] Kenealy, Dr Janet, p. 143.

[5] Kenealy, Dr Janet, p. 195.

[6] Hilda Gregg, ‘The Medical Woman in Fiction’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 164 (July 1898), 94-109 (p. 108).

[7] Kenealy, Dr Janet, p. 124.

[8] Patricia Fara, A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 40.

[9] ‘Notes on Books’, BMJ, 15 May 1920, p. 676.

[10] Kenealy, ‘Correspondence: A Question of Conscience’, BMJ, 14 September 1895, p. 682.

[11] Anne Hanley, Medicine, Knowledge and Venereal Diseases in England, 1886-1916 (London: Palgrave, 2017), p. 154.

[12] A.G. Welsford, ‘Correspondence: “A Question of Conscience”’, BMJ, 28 September 1895, p. 807.

[13] Kenealy, ‘Correspondence: “A Question of Conscience”’, BMJ, 12 October 1895, p. 934.

[14] ‘Letters, Notes, and Answers to Correspondents: “A Human Vivisection”’, BMJ, 20 June 1896, p. 1544.

[15] ‘Letters, Notes, and Answers to Correspondents: “A Human Vivisection”’, BMJ, 27 June 1896, p. 1588.

Emma Hutchinson (1820-1906)

In browsing many natural history periodicals of the nineteenth century, a casual reader could be forgiven for believing that science was pursued predominantly by men. The overwhelming majority of contributors to these publications were male, and even the few mentions of women involved in collecting are often mediated through their husbands or other male relatives. A Mr J. P. Duncan wrote to the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer in 1858 to relate that, ‘Mrs Duncan captured, yesterday afternoon, a fine female specimen of what I conceive to be Micra ostrina‘. The identity of the unfortunate Mrs Duncan is elided, and although she is rightfully credited with catching the insect, it is her husband who identifies the species and assumes responsibility for informing the periodical’s readers.

Despite the preponderance of men in these periodicals, women were heavily involved in the practices of natural history, though evidence of their roles can sometimes be harder to come by. Some of us will be familiar with the pioneering figure of Eleanor Ormerod (1808-1901), who earned widespread recognition among the scientific establishment for her work on injurious insects. Far less well-known, however, is Emma Hutchinson (1820-1906), who was an important and highly-valued figure within the entomological community. Born Emma Gill, in 1847 she married the Reverend Thomas Hutchinson, a Herefordshire-based vicar and keen botanist. It was the couple’s eldest son who first turned his mother’s attention to the pursuit of entomology, when he caught a moth at the age of five. Thereafter, Hutchinson took to the study of insects with an enthusiasm and dedication far beyond many of her contemporaries.

Hutchinson became particularly skilled at the breeding of Lepidoptera, a very difficult task that required dexterity and close attention. While chasing butterflies with a net was certainly a common practice, rearing insects from the egg was an equally established way of acquiring specimens. It ensured the insects were in excellent condition, as identification of species could often rest on minute anatomical differences that were at risk of damage by the less gentle manner of catching them on the wing. Furthermore, it allowed for a more exhaustive study of these insects, giving the breeder a chance to observe the full lifecycle of the butterfly or moth as it progressed from caterpillar to the adult (imago) stage.

Among Hutchinson’s greatest claim to fame was her continuous breeding of Eupithecia insigniata – the Pinion-spotted Pug moth – for over thirty years. In volume 8 of William Buckler’s book, Larvae of the British Butterflies and Moths (1899), the author notes that ‘towards the end of May, 1868, Mrs Hutchinson, of Grantsfield, kindly sent me seven eggs of Eupithecia consignata, laid by a female taken in Herefordshire by her daughter. They all hatched in the course of a few days’. Buckler notes that this was an ‘almost unknown larva’, thereby making Hutchinson’s contribution particularly valuable.

Buckler Larvae

William Buckler’s illustrations of larvae, with Hutchinson’s Pinion-spotted Pug centre-left (no. 2).

Despite her obvious skill and expertise, Hutchinson published very little compared to her male counterparts, nor was she permitted to join her local scientific society, the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, which did not admit women as full members until 1954. Consequently, one of her earliest publications in the club’s Transactions is attributed to ‘the family of Rev. Thos. Hutchinson’. Hutchinson’s obituarist in the Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation lamented that ‘she has left record of so little of her knowledge’, and ranked her among the foremost entomologists in the country at that time. However, she did contribute various short notices to two periodicals, the Entomologist (1864-1973) and the Young Naturalist (1879-90), recording her entomological activity.

Writing in 1865, Hutchinson recorded a successful collecting trip: ‘I shall be obliged to announce in the Entomologist the capture of Cerestoma asperella at Leominster. I believe this insect has only been taken once before in this country, and then by Mr Dale at Glanvilles Wootton. I have taken but a single specimen, and on the same day a lady in our party netted a specimen of Sarothripa revayana, an insect not previously taken here’. The published letter was signed ‘E. S. Hutchinson’, giving no clue as to her gender. This brief statement is highly suggestive, as it demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of Lepidoptera and an ability to correctly identify these insects, but also a familiarity with entomological literature regarding where and by whom previous captures had been made. Furthermore, the reference to a second woman collecting as part of the group demonstrates that Hutchinson was far from unique in her choice of pastime.

Among Hutchinson’s few publications of greater length was an article in the Young Naturalist. As the periodical’s title implies, the magazine aimed to ‘cultivate a taste for natural history’ among children and adolescents. Hutchinson’s piece was entitled ‘Entomology and Botany as Pursuits for Ladies’, specifically addressing young ladies in an attempt to convince her readers that these two branches of study were ‘strictly feminine’ and worth their time. The conversational style resembles the ‘maternal tradition’ of science writing, as characterised by Bernard Lightman, by which women wrote for an audience of children and other women. Unlike her letters to the Entomologist, the article was signed as ‘Mrs Hutchinson’, thereby emphasising that she was a woman and a mother.

A further significant article penned by Hutchinson for the Entomologist in 1881 regards the supposed near-extinction of the Comma butterfly (Vanessa c-album) in Britain, as had been repoorted by a number of other correspondents to the periodical. She disagreed, reporting that the butterfly remained abundant in her native Herefordshire. Furthermore, Hutchinson relates her attempts at conservation, describing how ‘I have bribed those over whom I have control in the parish to collect for me every larva and pupa they can find, and by this means have preserved many thousands of this lovely butterfly’. A great number of these insects she sent to be released in Surrey, in an effort to repopulate depleted areas, ‘but without success’.

After Hutchinson’s death, her scientifically valuable collection of 20,000 Herefordshire Lepidoptera were donated by her daughter to the London Natural History Museum, a testament to the scope and significance of her collecting. She is remembered in entomological nomenclature by a variant form of the Comma butterfly, which is named hutchinsoni in her honour.


The Comma butterfly, from Richard South’s Butterflies of the British Isles (1906). The variety named after Hutchinson, which is slightly paler than the other forms, is bottom right.



Midland Medical Miscellany (1881-95)


One of the pleasures of working with a physical collection of journals is serendipity. Scholars of periodical literature frequently cite chance encounters with interesting material as the chief advantage of engaging with original, hard-copy sources. My PhD research drew extensively on a collection of journals in the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s library. It was while I was wandering around their underground stacks that I came across the Midland Medical Miscellany. I was initially attracted by its playfully alliterative title and its beautiful frontispiece. However, I soon became absorbed by its insight into provincial medical identities and its in-depth discussions of ‘problem’ patients. This was not an irreverent ‘light entertainment’ magazine but a serious periodical catering for beleaguered practitioners outside the metropolis.

Medical Miscellany

A periodical for the provinces

The Miscellany was a general medical monthly which launched in 1881 as a Leicester-based publication. It was originally edited by Kenneth W. Millican, a general practitioner in the village of Kineton (Warwickshire) and later a specialist in throat diseases in London. In a future blog post I’ll be profiling Millican, showing how he presented himself as a spokesperson for provincial practitioners but ended up leading a relatively cosmopolitan career. In 1885, editorship passed to Thomas Michael Dolan, a doctor based in Halifax. The periodical was renamed the Provincial Medical Journal, a title it retained until it folded in 1895.

The inaugural issue of the Miscellany featured a long opening address, which set out the journal’s intended readership. While noting that its ‘careful selection of information’ would not ‘be uninteresting to those in what are commonly considered to be the higher ranks of the profession’, it asserted that it was designed to be of ‘especial value to the hardworking and leisureless General Practitioner’. In particular, it felt that its condensed reports of new research would be ideally suited to the ‘overworked’ medical man.[1] This editorial engaged with common tropes about the toils of provincial and country general practice.

As its later title implies, the journal proudly asserted its provincial character, while criticising the metropolitan elite. In 1882, the Miscellany reprinted comments made by its future editor. Dolan had characterised England’s major medical journals – the Lancet and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) – as essentially ‘London publication[s]’. He suggested that:

the literary activities of the provincial general practitioners were increasing each year – the London Practitioner alone could produce enough material to fill the Lancet and Medical Journal – therefore, if they desired not to be beaten out of the field, they must look for a new vehicle for the conveyance of their thoughts.

The Miscellany styled itself as this ‘new vehicle’. It modestly suggested that it did not lay claim to be ‘at present in a position adequately to represent the General Medical Practitioners of the Country’, but emphasised that it was ‘compiled in [their] interests’.[2]  The journal suggested that there was an opening in the market for a new type of publication, implying that provincial GPs felt underrepresented by mainstream metropolitan journals. It positioned itself as better suited to these readers’ interests and lifestyle.

By insinuating that the BMJ privileged metropolitan practitioners, Dolan implied that it had alienated its traditional readership. The BMJ began life in 1840 as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal (PMSJ), the defacto periodical of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association. Both were rebranded in the 1850s, becoming the BMJ and British Medical Association respectively. These changes were controversial; some Association members expressed fears that the interests of the metropolis were being prioritised over those of the provinces.[3]

Under Dolan’s editorship, the Miscellany was later renamed the Provincial Medical Journal. This was presumably a marketing tactic designed to increase the journal’s appeal outside the Midlands; by this time, it was also published in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. Further, by framing itself as a journal for provincial medical practitioners, it effectively positioned itself in the space once occupied by the PMSJ. Perhaps this was a bid to claim the BMJ’s disaffected readers, though it came several decades after the controversy surrounding that journal. Scholars have discussed the diminishing popularity of the ‘provincial’ as a template for national identity.[4] However, the journal’s use of the term as late as the 1880s and 90s indicates a desire to reclaim provincialism and assert it as a broader identity. The journal addressed itself to all those who practised outside of the metropolis.


Engaging with ‘problem’ patients

Upon its launch, the Miscellany asserted that among its chief interests were ‘Ethics and Etiquette, the relations of members of the profession with the public’.[5] The journal did not adopt a romanticised perspective of the doctor-patient relationship, but rather discussed what it saw as the challenges of general practice.

In 1882, it featured a lengthy article on ‘The Question of Patients’, which focused on the difficulties encountered in ‘diagnostic interrogation’. The article demonstrated remarkable snobbery towards ‘the badly educated classes’, remarking on the ‘sheer inability […] of persons who have led unintelligent lives, to grasp the meaning and importance of questions that are put to them’.[6] The writer implied that patients were to blame for unsatisfactory medical interactions.

Two months later, the journal published a feature on ‘A Practitioner’s Grievances’, many of which related specifically to country practice, particularly the demands made on ‘the Doctor’s time’. It complained that, ‘in country districts, especially, it is almost impossible to induce patients to send their messages to the doctor in decent time’. It described the practitioner arriving home after a long day, ‘weary and hungry’, only to ‘find a message awaiting him’ to return to a village he had visited earlier that day. This frustration is compounded by the fact he ‘finds that the patient has been ill for a week, and that to-morrow morning would have done just as well’.[7] Complaints about patients requesting attendance at inconvenient times were not unusual, though together these articles seem particularly critical of patients.

The journal was also concerned about medical men’s interactions with women. In these instances it was the practitioner (rather than the patient) who was supposed to alter his behaviour. An article on ‘The Relation of Medical Men to their Patients’ (1885) counselled ‘[y]oung medical practitioners [to] bear in mind a few general truths in their dealings especially with female patients’. It recommended that ‘[c]onfidential relations with ladies of a household’ were to be ‘absolutely declined’ and that ‘examinations of female patients should always be made in presence of a third person’.[8] Such warnings were common in medical writing. Jukes de Styrap’s The Young Practitioner (1890) – an advice guide for aspiring medical men – counselled its readers to be ‘extremely cautious […] in having married women or young females to consult you secretly’.[9] Practitioners were taught that their encounters with female patients should be conducted with propriety.

Medical men in rural or small-town practices were thought to be particularly susceptible to rumour, innuendo and scandal. In 1883, the Miscellany reprinted a poem entitled ‘The Doctor’s Dream’, which originally appeared in Punch.[10] The poem’s speaker is a village practitioner, who reminisces about his life and career. One of the challenges he recalls is having ‘[t]o face and brave the gossip and stuff that travels about through a country town;/ To be thrown in the way of hysterical girls, and live all terrible scandal down’. Though humorous in tone, the Miscellany suggested that the poem was ‘worthy of preservation in medical literature’ and likely to ‘strike a chord in every medical man’s heart’.[11]  The Miscellany’s later incarnation, the PMJ, featured an article on ‘Doctors and Lady Patients’ (1887) which warned of the dangers surrounding long visits to women. It noted that, ‘[i]n London possibly they might escape, for a time, from the eye of Mrs Grundy […] In provincial towns medical men who are too attentive, very soon fall under her ken and then – Nemesis!’[12] These pieces show how communities might police the practitioner’s professional conduct.

The Miscellany/PMJ framed itself as a riposte to the dominance of the London periodical press and capitalised on the provincial medical man’s perceived resentment towards his metropolitan counterparts. It grappled with the supposed challenges of general practice and proudly asserted its provincialism. While it enjoyed almost fifteen years in circulation, the fact it eventually folded perhaps indicates that its approach was not particular popular with medical readers. The journals that it attacked – the Lancet and BMJ –  remained the most widely read titles.

[1] ‘Introduction’, Midland Medical Miscellany, January 1881, pp. 1-2 (p. 1).

[2] ‘A Journal for the General Practitioner’, Midland Medical Miscellany, April 1882, p. 55.

[3] For an overview, see Peter W.J. Bartrip, Mirror of Medicine: The BMJ, 1840-1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990)

[4] Robin Gilmour, ‘Regional and Provincial in Victorian Literature’, in The Literature of Region and Nation, ed. by R.P. Draper (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 51-60 (p. 52).

[5] ‘Introduction’, pp. 1-2.

[6] ‘The Question of Patients’, Midland Medical Miscellany, February 1882, pp. 21-4 (p. 22).

[7] ‘A Practitioner’s Grievances’, Midland Medical Miscellany, April 1882, pp. 51-2 (p. 51).

[8] ‘The Relation of Medical Men to their Patients’, Midland Medical Miscellany, 1 January 1885, p. 23.

[9] Jukes de Styrap, The Young Practitioner (London: H.K. Lewis, 1890), p. 110. This book was based on Daniel Webster Cathell’s popular US manual, Book on the Physician Himself (1881), which exercised similar caution.

[10] ‘The Doctor’s Dream’, Punch, 20 January 1883, p. 35.

[11] ‘The Doctor’s Dream’, Midland Medical Miscellany, February 1883, pp. 63-4 (p. 63).

[12] ‘Annotations: Doctors and Lady Patients’, Provincial Medical Journal, 1 January 1887, p. 35.

S. J. Mackie and the Geologist

The life of a periodical editor in the nineteenth century was not an occupation for the easily discouraged. Financial precarity and the worry of finding sufficient material for each issue were constant struggles for many, particularly as the print market became increasingly crowded. Periodicals were often short-lived, lucky to exist for more than a few years before collapsing under the strain. The career of Samuel Joseph Mackie (1823-1902), editor of the Geologist (1858-1864), is a particularly remarkable example of such a career.

There is a great deal we do not know about the life of S. J. Mackie. No known image of him exists, and we must surmise much from the scattered traces of his chequered path through the world of scientific publishing. Born in Folkestone, Mackie’s interest in geology began from an early age. By his late twenties, he was employed as a customs officer, but had also been elected as a Fellow of the Geological Society on the strength of his scientific work. However, a financial scandal involving his father cast a shadow over his early career, leaving Mackie bankrupt and forcing him to relocate to London. It is not clear how he earned a living at this stage, but Mackie next emerges as editor of a new periodical, the Geologist, in 1858. The preface asks for correspondents to ‘join in aiding me in my earnest desire to popularize and to extend the noble science of geology without sacrificing, in any way, its proper dignity’. Mackie was prone to grandiloquence, clearly believing his role as editor was one weighted with great responsibility. ‘Nothing once printed is innocuous or inert’, he stated, pointing to the importance of periodicals to the advancement of science, as the ‘magazine is bound into a volume, and may be read again months or years afterwards, and become, as it often does, the first course of instruction to younger minds’.


Title page of the Geologist‘s second volume

The Geologist was a self-described ‘popular illustrated monthly magazine’. It shared the ideology common to many other natural history periodicals of this period – such as the Zoologist, for example – in inviting contributions from anyone who had something of interest to share. ‘In every corner of the country where a labourer in the Geological field is to be found, there exists a man who has it in his power to uphold the Geologist, and by upholding it, to foster Science’. Geology was a particularly popular and fashionable subject, as Mackie himself observed: ‘it is wondered at, and enquired about’ by a large section of the public ‘who cannot help noticing as they walk about the country, the earth is deposited in layers or strata; who see fossils dug out of railway cuttings, or who stop to gaze in astonishment, blended with incredulity, at the restorations of uncouth antediluvian creatures in the gardens of the Crystal Palace’. Despite this apparent appetite, the Geologist struggled financially for most of its existence. It came to an unexpected close in 1864, when its publishers sold the periodical for a measly £25. The new owners, Longman, Green, & Co., begun their own periodical, the Geological Magazine (1864-). Mackie admitted defeat, deciding to ‘retire from the field rather than take part in a contest that might prove injurious to both’.

Mackie’s enthusiasm for periodicals was clearly not overly dampened by the ignoble end of the Geologist, and in 1865 he commenced another publication along similar lines. This journal was comprehensively entitled the Geological and Natural History Reportory. Just in case the scope of the periodical was in doubt, Mackie appended an extended subtitle, describing it as an ‘Illustrated Popular Weekly Magazine of Geology, Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Natural History, Terrestrial and Cosmical Physics, and Journal of Pre-Historic Archaeology and Ethnology’. The expanded remit of this new publication is most likely an attempt to maximise subscribers by appealing to as broad an audience as possible. Mackie noted that ‘no special-class scientific periodical has ever yet attained a higher circulation than from 800 to 1000’, yet ‘it is certain that the quantity of matter now given could not be continued unless a very much more extensive patronage be accorded to the present effort’. Mackie was publishing at his own expense, and therefore some caution was necessary. Despite the promise of ‘weekly’ issues, it began at a monthly rate ‘until sufficient promise of support has been received to ensure him [Mackie] against serious pecuniary loss’. However, it would appear that the required number of readers was not forthcoming, and the Reportory was therefore hampered from the beginning. The erratic publication schedule continued, barely reaching a single volume’s length in over two years. The final issue ends mid-sentence in 1869.

After the failure of the Reportory, Mackie gave up on editorship and took up employment as a civil engineer. Furthermore, he turned his hand to inventing, filing patents for various contraptions of dubious ingenuity, including a design for a cross-channel ferry intended to alleviate sea sickness. None of these patents ever went beyond the drawing board, and Mackie lived out the rest of his years in relative obscurity.


Margaret Todd (1859-1918): Medical woman and author

Margaret Todd

Margaret Todd (Wikipedia/ Public Domain)

In 1893, the popular periodical The Nineteenth Century featured an article on ‘Medical Women in Fiction’, written by Sophia Jex-Blake, who was well-known as a pioneer in the movement for women in medicine. Her article reviewed a selection of British and American novels published between the 1870s and early 1890s, all of which represented aspiring female practitioners. Jex-Blake examined the way in which they approached what she termed ‘a great social question’. She conceded that portraits of medical women need not be ‘drawn by friendly hands’ but maintained they ‘should be in some sense taken from life’.[1]

She singled out for mention the three-volume novel Mona Maclean, Medical Student (1892), which she considered to be ‘manifestly written from the inside’.[2] The story depicts the medical and romantic adventures of its eponymous young heroine, a student at the London School of Medicine for Women. After she fails her Intermediate Examinations, Mona takes an extended break from her studies, visiting rural Scotland to stay with a distant cousin, who requests that she conceal her identity as a medical student. This ruse proves difficult to sustain when Mona falls for an aspiring medical man, Ralph Dudley. The novel is a female Bildungsroman which sees its heroine undergo various trials before she passes her exams and settles in practice with her new husband, Dudley.[3] In praising the novel, Jex-Blake suggested that its protagonist resembled a ‘genuine medical woman’.[4]

The authenticity was unsurprising. For while the novel was published under the pseudonym Graham Travers, it was written by a female medical student, Margaret Todd. Born in Fife in 1859 to James Cameron Todd (a canon and schoolmaster) and his wife Jeannie McBain, Todd briefly worked as a schoolteacher. She then became one of the first pupils at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, which Jex-Blake founded in 1886. Although Jex-Blake claimed to be ignorant about the authorship of Mona Maclean – she suggested she did not know whether it was written by a man or a woman – this was disingenuous. By the time the novel was published, the pair had been living together for four years. Jex-Blake is widely considered to have inspired the book, particularly the characterisation of the formidable Dr Alice Bateson. Further, she helped to secure the novel’s publication with Blackwood’s.[5]

Mona Maclean was immensely popular upon its release, reaching 15 editions by 1900. It received largely positive reviews. The Academy endorsed it as ‘one of the freshest and brightest novels of the time’,[6] while The Speaker praised the heroine as a ‘natural lady’ and the book as ‘good and artistic work’.[7] The Athenaeum’s reviewer dwelled on the novel’s ‘obvious blemishes.’ Like other critics, he recognised it as the product of first-time authorship. He also bemoaned that it was ‘a novel with a purpose, and suffers from the drawbacks inherent in works of the proselytizing stamp’. Despite this, he suggested that it showed ‘decided promise, and was in parts exceedingly enjoyable’.[8]


Mona Maclean

Todd’s novel was also well-received by the medical press. This is surprising, given that many journals had been highly critical of the medical-woman movement, as I explore in this blog post. Upon its publication, the Lancet judged it ‘a capital book’ and a ‘well-written, and effectively-told tale’,[9] while the Edinburgh Medical Journal designated it ‘eminently readable’.[10] The Medical Press and Circular was slightly less enthusiastic, suggesting that the plot was rather ‘feeble,’ but it conceded that the book held a certain ‘charm’.[11] The journals commended the book to their readers, the vast majority of whom would have been medical men. None of them suggested it would make a suitable gift for a wife or daughter, though the fact it was reviewed around Christmas may have suggested this to some readers. When the Lancet reviewed the book’s fifteenth edition in 1900, it praised the publishers for bringing out a ‘cheap edition’, thus putting the story ‘within the reach of everyone’.[12]

Long overlooked by literary scholars, Mona Maclean has attracted critical interest in recent decades. Critics working on New Woman or New Girl fiction have considered its treatment of female education, friendship, and sexuality,[13] while those interested in the Victorian medical-woman movement have examined its depiction of medical education and practice.[14] Thus far, scholars have not interrogated its reception by the medical press, as I consider in my thesis.

Following the publication of Mona Maclean, medical journals continued to associate Todd with her debut novel. In 1894, the British Medical Journal reported that three women – including the ‘authoress of Mona Maclean’ – had passed the Conjoint examinations in Scotland.[15] In 1895, the journal summarised Todd’s response to controversial correspondence from Arabella Kenealy (another early medical woman and a eugenicist) about whether doctors should intervene to prevent miscarriages of syphilitic children. It referred to Todd as ‘[t]he Author of Mona Maclean’.[16]

It is fitting that her authorial and medical identities were entwined, for she maintained her interests in both literature and medicine. After taking her MD in Brussels in 1894, she worked as Assistant Medical Officer at the Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children, and also penned further novels and short stories. She has also gained recognition among the scientific community for having proposed the word ‘isotope’ to the chemist Frederick Soddy, a family friend (though sources also suggest earlier antecedents). A correspondent from the Royal Institute of Chemistry related the incident to the Lancet in 1957, referring to Todd as ‘a medical woman’ and ‘a novelist’, again asserting her dual identities.[17]

Following Jex-Blake’s retirement at the century’s close, she and Todd moved to a small farm, Windydene, in Rotherfield, where the older woman died in 1912. Six years later, Todd published a biography of her, The Life of Dr Sophia Jex-Blake (1918). It is a painstakingly detailed and hagiographic account of the subject’s life as a pioneer for women’s medical education and practice.[18] The Lancet described the biography as ‘admirable’ and ‘as absorbing as a good novel’ in its review,[19] while the BMJ suggested it was a ‘well-written memorial’ but noted the author had ‘suppress[ed] […] any reference to her share in Miss Jex-Blake’s life, on which it would have been interesting to have some light’.[20]

Three months after the biography appeared, Todd herself died. Newspapers reported that she passed away at a nursing home in London, though some have inferred that she committed suicide.[21] When the Lancet and the BMJ announced her decease, they noted her medical career, but both suggested that she was better known as an author.[22] Following her death, the London School of Medicine for Women created a scholarship in her name, thus ensuring her legacy among future generations of medical women.

[1] Sophia Jex-Blake, ‘Medical Women in Fiction’, The Nineteenth Century, 33 (February 1893), 261–72 (pp. 261-2).

[2] Jex-Blake, p. 268.

[3] Margaret Georgina Todd, Mona Maclean, Medical Student, 3 vols (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1892)

[4] Jex-Blake, p. 278.

[5] Kristine Swenson, Medical Women and Victorian Fiction (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005), p. 131.

[6] William Wallace, ‘New Novels’, Academy, 3 December 1892, pp. 504-5 (p. 504).

[7] ‘Fiction’, Speaker, 12 November 1892, pp. 598-9 (p. 599).

[8] ‘Novels of the Week’, Athenaeum, 3 December 1892, pp. 773-5 (p. 774).

[9] ‘Reviews and Notices of Books: Other Seasonable Productions’, Lancet, 17 December 1892, p. 1394.

[10] ‘Review: Mona Maclean’, EMJ, December 1892, pp. 569-70 (p. 570).

[11] ‘Literature: Mona Maclean, Medical Student’, MPC, 19 April 1893, p. 424.

[12] ‘Library Table: Mona Maclean’, Lancet, 9 June 1900, p. 1663.

[13] Ann Heilmann, New Woman Fiction: Women Writing First-Wave Feminism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), p. 29. Charles Ferrall and Anna Jackson, Juvenile Literature and British Society: The Age of Adolescence (New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 72-6.

[14] Rachel Carr, ‘The “Girton Girl” and the “Lady Doctor”: Women, Higher Education and Medicine in Popular Victorian Fiction by Women’ (unpublished doctoral thesis: King’s College London, 1998). Swenson, Medical Women and Victorian Fiction.

[15] ‘Medical News’, BMJ, 11 August 1894, p. 346.

[16] ‘Correspondence: A Question of Conscience’, BMJ, 5 October 1895, pp. 870-1.

[17] Hugh Nicol, ‘The Word “Isotope”’, Lancet, 29 June 1957, pp. 1358-9.

[18] Todd, The Life of Sophia Jex-Blake (London: Macmillan, 1918).

[19] ‘Reviews and Notices of Books: The Life of Sophia Jex-Blake’, Lancet, 10 August 1918, p. 174.

[20] ‘Reviews: Life of Miss Sophia Jex-Blake’, BMJ, 10 August 1918, pp. 133-4 (p. 133).

[21] Elizabeth L. Ewan and others (eds.), The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), p. 184.

[22] [Untitled], Lancet, 7 September 1918, p. 333. ‘The Late Dr Margaret Todd’, BMJ¸ 14 September 1918, p. 299.

The Zoologist (1843-1916)

The nineteenth century saw a proliferation of periodicals dedicated to natural history in its various forms, ranging from more general publications with titles such as the Zoologist or Naturalist, to those with a more specific focus, such as the Entomologist or Phytologist. These periodicals catered to a widespread taste for natural history, with men and women of all classes and levels of expertise taking an active part in the production of scientific knowledge. Writing in 1873, Charles Kingsley remarked that natural history ‘has become a popular and common pursuit’, no longer ‘confined mainly to several scientific men, or mere collectors of shells, insects, and dried plants’. He also noted that ‘we have, in addition to amusing books on special subjects, serials on Natural History more or less profound, and suited to every kind of student and every grade of knowledge’. In the first of a series of blog posts looking at these periodicals, profound or otherwise, the Zoologist is taken as an excellent example of this new kind of publication.

Edward Newman 300dpi

‘Edward Newman. Photograph by Maull & Polyblank.’ . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Beginning in 1843, the Zoologist was the project of the entrepreneurial scientific printer and publisher Edward Newman. Born into a Quaker family in 1801, Newman originally entered the rope-making business, but an early interest in natural history (and entomology in particular) led him to become a partner in the printing firm of George Luxford (1807-1854), of which he very soon became the sole owner. Residing in London, Newman was embedded within the networks of leading naturalists, and was a founding member of the Entomological Society of London in 1833. He published widely on a surprising range of topics, with his most respected work regarding butterflies and moths. However, Newman also turned his hand to other topics with varying degrees of success, notably an article (published in the Zoologist) in which he argued pterodactyls to be marsupial bats.


Illustration accompanying Newman’s article on pterodactyls

The Zoologist was described as ‘a popular miscellany of natural history’. Rather than commission articles written by experts, the periodical relied entirely upon its readers to furnish it with material. The aim was explicitly to attract as wide a range of contributors as possible, which made sound commercial sense, but was also underpinned by Newman’s own belief in a more inclusive scientific community. This ideology is reflected in Newman’s vision for the new periodical, and his attempts to render it accessible to those without specialist knowledge. In the preface to the first volume, Newman stated ‘the attempt to combine scientific truths with readable English has been considered by my friends as one of surpassing rashness’, and he remarked that many had asked him to ‘introduce a few Latin descriptions, just to give the work a scientific character’. Newman counters this with the example of Gilbert White’s classic work of nature writing, the Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), a touchstone for almost every nineteenth-century naturalist. White had written in ‘pure, plain, intelligible English’, and thereby ‘found ample favour in the eyes of the public’. Newman looked to the ‘multitude of observers’ who had arisen since the time of White, and hoped that this army of scientific workers could make the Zoologist a success, providing contributions spanning a far wider field than that of an eighteenth-century clergyman. ‘I wish that every district should have a chronicler of its natural history, and that the Zoologist should be a receptacle for all’.


Title page for first volume of the Zoologist

Whether Newman’s ideals translated into practice is another matter, but nevertheless, the Zoologist is one of many publications that offered a chance for naturalists to see their name in print, regardless of their social or scientific status. Newman proclaimed, ‘every one who subscribes a single fact is welcome – nay, more than that – has a direct claim to be admitted as a contributor’. The lists of contributors at the beginning of each yearly volume show many leading naturalists alongside others of whom we know very little. The subject matter is equally eclectic, ranging from ‘manners of the water rat’, ‘anecdote of a robin’, and the intriguingly titled ‘electric centipede’. The latter was written by Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888), yet to gain his renown as a naturalist, detailing his discovery of a luminescent centipede in his garden in Hackney. Conversational in style and free of scientific terminology, it can be easily read and understood by anyone.

The Zoologist was by far the most successful of Newman’s many publishing ventures, and one the most long-lived of all the nineteenth-century popular natural history periodicals. It continued after Newmans’ death in 1876, surviving into the twentieth century and finally ceasing in 1916, presumably as many of its contributors were otherwise occupied at this time with more pressing matters than natural history.

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Hilary Term 2018

Galton Inquiries 1883

Our programme for Hilary Term 2018 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Tuesday 30 January 2018 (Week 3)

Professor Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford

Time Tribes: How the Railways Made Communities (1840-1900)

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

When it comes to modern loyalties, scholars of various disciplines have predominantly looked at class, profession, region or nation. While these no doubt represent important sources of identity, in the long nineteenth century TIME emerged as a significant source of individual and collective self-definition. Increasingly, how people related to and made use of their own time marked out their actual and desired status. Time, that most elusive of matters, became instrumental for the making and unmaking of communities that sometimes transcended regional and national contexts. Much of this can be attributed to the railways and the temporal innovations they facilitated, above all standard time and railway timetables. This paper approaches the phenomenon in question – time tribes – through an investigation of British and German railway passengers.

Tuesday 13 February 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Ryan Sweet, University of Leeds

Normalcy Interrogated: Prosthetic Hand Users in Victorian Sensation-Fiction Narratives

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

The nineteenth century is often celebrated as a period of great innovation in artificial limbs. Not only did the century see tremendous developments in surgical practice, meaning that more amputees survived amputation and more survived with serviceable stumps able to support prosthetic limbs, but an attitude was also cultivated that increasingly privileged physical “normalcy”. As the concept of the “normal” body was constructed by contexts such as the emergence of bodily statistics, the growth of sciences that equated physical appearances with particular character traits, and changes in Poor Law legislation, it became more important than ever before for individuals to conceal bodily losses in order to avoid the stigma attached to physical difference. An emerging profession of prosthesis makers cashed in on both this growing consumer market and wider taste for physical “wholeness”—an explicit constituent of “normalcy”—by producing sophisticated artificial limbs designed to conceal limb loss (aesthetically and functionally). The products of the most successful of these limb makers, such as A. A. Marks and Frederick Gray, were celebrated by journalists and advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. In spite of such high spirits surrounding the achievements of artificial limbs, literary representations of prostheses tended to be more critical of both the efficacy of and logic underpinning such devices. Two examples of a texts that complicated the developing hegemony of physical “wholeness”—as well as the importance placed on concealing physical difference—were the sensation-fiction short stories “Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand” (1862) by Robert William Buchanan and “Prince Rupert’s Emerald Ring” (1895) by T. Lockhart. In this talk, I will argue that texts such as these challenged the status quo by presenting sensory critiques of hand prostheses and questioning the demand for them to enable users to “pass” as “normal”.

Tuesday 27 February 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Jana Funke, University of Exeter

‘Sexo-Aesthetic Inversion’: Transgender Subjectivities in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Literature and Science

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Much scholarship on the history of sexual science in relation to trans history has tended to focus on two related areas of sexological activity: the invention of diagnostic categories to produce fixed and stable identities, and the development of surgical and hormonal technologies to alter the physical appearance of trans bodies over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, sexual science is mainly remembered for implementing a medicalized framework that produced rigid diagnostic labels and put emphasis on the physical or somatic aspects of trans experience. This paper presents an alternative account of the relation between trans history and sexual science by focusing on a slightly earlier historical period, the decades between 1880 and 1920. At a time when surgical and hormonal interventions were not yet within immediate medical reach, understandings of what is nowadays described as trans identity emerged through sustained dialogue between scientific and literary writers who shared ideas concerning the role of Einfühlung (empathy), fantasy, dreams, the imagination and creativity in enabling an individual to experience and achieve cross-gender identification. Starting with British sexologist Havelock Ellis’s concept of ‘sexo-aesthetic inversion’ and Ellis’s exchange with modernist writer Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman) in the late 1910s, the paper works backwards to trace the intellectual roots of the scientific-literary framing of trans subjectivities. These include late nineteenth-century scientific studies of colour hearing, sense perception and aesthetics as well as works by literary authors like Olive Schreiner, Vernon Lee and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod to name but a few. Through its investigation of this earlier moment, the paper moves across the Victorian-Modernist divide to illuminate previously overlooked forms of exchange between literary and sexual scientific writings and to offer an alternative account of modern trans history.

Victorian Scientists and Periodicals

In a new series of blog posts, ConSciCom researchers will share the little-known periodicals and personalities they’ve uncovered in the course of their research.

Medical Mirror (1864-70)

Alison Moulds

Medical Mirror 1

An advertisement for the Medical Mirror, which appeared in the BMJ (1866).

The Medical Mirror was a general medical monthly, published in London. It was originally edited by metropolitan physician William Abbotts Smith. In July 1866, editorship passed to his colleague Alexander Thorburn Macgowan, who had served as Staff-Surgeon in the 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry. Three years later, Macgowan retired and sold the copyright of the journal.[1] The Mirror’s last editor – who oversaw production between September 1869 and December 1870 – was anonymous and has not been identified.

In his 1864 opening address, Abbotts Smith announced that his aim was ‘the production of a cheap and useful serial’. He suggested that, while the Mirror would be ‘essentially a Review’, it would also contain ‘information on current topics of professional interest’. Essentially, he pitched it as occupying an ‘intermediate position’ between news-oriented medical weeklies such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal and the more voluminous quarterly reviews.[2]

Medical Mirror 2

The journal’s opening address following its 1869 rebranding.

In May 1869, the Mirror rebranded itself, moving to a format which more closely resembled that of a magazine. Macgowan suggested that he had been advised to bring out the periodical ‘in a form more consistent with the progressive times we live in, and at a price more consistent with the modest earnings of the general practitioner’.[3] The cover price dropped to 4s per annum (it was previously priced at 12s).

Throughout its run, the journal proudly proclaimed its independence and commitment to representing the interests of rank-and-file medical practitioners. Its first address emphasised that it was ‘unfettered by the influence of any clique or individuals’ and ‘blinded by no feelings of animosity towards any other Medical Journal’. It affirmed: ‘we start upon neutral, and […] thoroughly independent grounds’.[4] It sought to differentiate itself from journals known for their bitter rivalries, such as the radical Lancet and conservative London Medical Gazette. In 1869, the rebranded Mirror reassured its readers that it remained progressive in outlook, that it had ‘always adopted a cosmopolitan platform – free from bigotry, cliquism, and intolerance’ and that it ‘advocated the rights of the many, and the principles of free-trade’. However, it acknowledged that its calls for medical reform had now become widely accepted among the profession and the public. The journal represented itself as an ‘organ of independent thought and progress, bound only by the happy rules of unsectarian Christianity’.[5]

The Mirror printed a range of articles relevant to the experiences of general practitioners. It enthusiastically promoted the cottage hospital movement, which it saw as a means of elevating the status of country doctors. In 1859, surgeon Albert Napper converted a cottage into a hospital in Surrey. This spearheaded a movement, which saw houses adapted into small, rural hospitals and dispensaries altered to include inpatient facilities. These cottage hospitals were modelled on provincial general hospitals but staffed by general practitioners.[6] The Mirror featured various articles on the movement, including a report by Napper which emphasised that the hospitals played a crucial role in ‘the alleviation of the sufferings of the poor’ and in raising the profile of the country practitioner. Recognising that a hospital appointment was ‘always considered a sufficient guarantee of high professional attainments’ among affluent private patients, Napper suggested that ‘in the absence of any such means of affording proof of his ability, the country surgeon is too frequently regarded with distrust’.[7] The Mirror valorised the role of rural and provincial general practitioners. In one article on ‘The Country Doctor and His Work’, it affirmed that, ‘[t]here should be no better friend to the public than the man who, at all times, in all seasons, is ready to risk his own life in trying to save theirs’.[8]

Significantly, the journal also became interested in women’s rights under the auspices of its final editor, whose identity unfortunately remains unknown. When Macgowan was at the helm, the Mirror had commented on women’s education in the US. It expressed concern that in Boston, where ‘the rights of women have been for some time fully recognised’, the birth rate was steadily diminishing. It cautioned that women should not ‘neglect a department of usefulness for which Nature has peculiarly fitted them’, a reference to childrearing.[9] Under the next editor, the journal adopted a more liberal agenda and became an early supporter of the medical woman movement in Britain. An editorial on ‘Female Physicians’ maintained that ‘women have a perfect right to every facility for the study of medicine now enjoyed by men’. This article positioned the Mirror as more progressive than its contemporaries. It derided the BMJ for its ‘medieval notions concerning women’ and the Medical Times and Gazette for its ‘pseudo-scientific dogmas’ about women’s ‘physical and mental capacity’.[10]

This interjection was part of a broader sympathy for women’s rights which emerged in the journal. Another piece scathingly suggested that a BMJ journalist read ‘J.S. Mill’s judicious, enlightened, and enlightening work on the “The Subjection of Women”’, and the journal stridently opposed the ‘degrading and demoralizing influence’ of the Contagious Diseases Acts.[11] Since the Mirror ceased publication in 1870, we cannot know whether this positive coverage of the woman question would have been sustained. Perhaps the journal’s increasingly bold and liberal stance rendered it unpopular with medical readers and ultimately contributed to its demise.

[1] [Untitled], Medical Mirror, 1 September 1869, p. 113.

[2] ‘Address’, Medical Mirror, January 1864, pp. 1-3.

[3] ‘Address to the Readers of the Medical Mirror’, Medical Mirror, 1 May 1869, p. 3.

[4] ‘Address’, p. 3.

[5] ‘Address to the Readers’, p. 3.

[6] For a history of the cottage hospital movement see Steven Cherry, ‘Change and Continuity in the Cottage Hospitals c. 1859-1948: The Experience in East Anglia’, Medical History, 36 (July 1992), 271-89.

[7] Albert Napper, ‘On the Advantages Desirable to the Medical Profession and to the Public from the Establishment of Village Hospitals’, Medical Mirror, January 1864, pp. 20-4 (p. 22).

[8] ‘The Country Doctor and his Work’, Medical Mirror, 1 November 1870, p. 195.

[9] ‘The Rights of Women’, Medical Mirror, August 1866, p. 506.

[10] ‘Notes and Comments: Female Physicians’, Medical Mirror, 1 December 1869, p. 173.

[11] ‘Notes and Comments: Syphilography for Ladies’, Medical Mirror, 1 November 1869, p. 154. ‘Prostitution: The Contagious Diseases Acts’, Medical Mirror, 1 November 1869, pp.  155-7 (p. 157).