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Diseases in 19th century literature

Discussion in 'English' started by missjohnsondreams, Aug 31, 2016.

  1. missjohnsondreams

    missjohnsondreams New commenter

    Hi all,
    I am currently creating a SOW called 'disasters and diseases'. So far, I am very heavy on the 'disaster' aspect of the scheme (no, that's not a metaphor) and struggling to think of any diseases mentioned in 19th century literature. The only one I can think of is scarlet fever in Little Women.
    Suggestions please...
  2. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Does Poe's 'Masque of the Red Death' count? The Red Death it comes a-calling...
  3. Joannanna

    Joannanna New commenter

    My go-to was Little Women! But also:
    Helen Burns in Jane Eyre - consumption, I think
    Many people in Wuthering Heights - Catherine dies of something, as does Lindon and Edgar
    Dr Rank in A Doll's House ( in case you fancy some drama)
    Lucy in Dracula gets something, admittedly caused by the vampire
  4. Honeydew

    Honeydew New commenter

    'Jane Eyre' comes to mind - her young friend at the girl's school died of an illness (sorry, can't remember exactly what).

    I also remember quite a few people dying of diseases in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' - the young man who had a little daughter, I think.

    Heidi maybe? Her friend had polio? Not sure.

    Also, in Ibsen's 'A Doll's House'.

    In twelve years a slave the writer and two other characters get smallpox.

    That's just off the top of my head so details are a little sketchy.
  5. gingerella

    gingerella New commenter

    In one of the Katy books, What Katy Did Next maybe, a character gets a fever in Naples and nearly dies. Also Colin in A Secret Garden had something odd. Thomas Hardy wrote A Wasted Illness which is fairly ghastly. There is a powerful description of the impact of disease in Nicholas Nickleby and Paul Dombey has TB. Marianne in Sense and Sensibility nearly dies of a cold oh, and I seem to remember Lady Dedlock in Bleak House dies of smallpox!

    Sorry for the rather inconsequential response but it stopped me thinking about work tomorrow so thank you!
  6. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    I'd stick to Dickens and have a look at

    Esther Summerson - smallpox
    Smike - consumption
    Lady Dedlock - exposure (there is a great deal to write about the symbolism of her death)
    Tiny Tim - rickets and TB
    Possibly compare the deaths of Little Paul Dombey and Little Nell - consumption though never stated.

    You might argue that Sydney Carton was syphilitic.

    Worth considering Krook and spontaneous consumption?

    and, of course, countless others.
    katykook likes this.
  7. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

  8. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    All bad women were killed off by smallpox as a punishment for their sins. Moral - be virtuous or you will die a nasty death.
    Lots of French novels: Nana died a particularly gruesome death as did The Lady of the Camellias. Madame Bovary went into a mental decline and committed suicide.
    Mrs Rochester also had a mental illness in Jane Eyre. Wide Sargasso Sea (20th century) also worth a look. Quite a few people had mental illness but I can't remember off-hand.
    Oliver Twist's mother died of something - exhaustion?
    Jos Smedley in Vanity Fair had an interesting death - he was nursed in his final days by Becky Sharpe who may have murdered him.

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