Lisa Smith

The Experience of False Pregnancies in Early Modern France

by Lisa Smith March 30, 2014
The Experience of False Pregnancies in Early Modern France

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor I was rustling through some old research notes on strange pregnancies when a detail in a case addressed to the Société Royale de Médecine from 1787 suddenly caught my eye. The case was one of unexpected pregnancy in which an unnamed forty-four year old woman (sterile for twenty-three years, one […]

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A Case of Spontaneous Human Combustion in 1731

by Lisa Smith January 31, 2014
A Case of Spontaneous Human Combustion in 1731

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor A strange case from Italy was reported in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1731 (vol. 1, June, p. 263): the body of a “Lady of Quality” was found burned to ashes in her bedchamber. Possibly, she had knocked over “a Lighted Lamp” during a fit. This account doesn’t seem particularly odd, […]

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Hobgoblin Classification in the Eighteenth Century

by Lisa Smith October 30, 2013
Hobgoblin Classification in the Eighteenth Century

By Lisa Smith The modern goblin might be mean and ugly, but early modern goblins were a different breed: helpful, if mischievous, creatures. The shift began in the eighteenth century when goblins went extinct. Augustin Calmet, a Benedictine monk, included two chapters on goblins in his Dissertation (1746), where he provided evidence of goblins from […]

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Archival Wonders

by Lisa Smith September 30, 2013
Archival Wonders

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor A few days ago, a friend of mine mentioned on a certain social media site that she had just found pressed flowers in an eighteenth-century recipe book. Nothing unusual in that—there are lots of bits and bobs stuck into old papers.* But it is always a delight for researchers. Here […]

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The Sex Life of Dogs in the Eighteenth Century

by Lisa Smith August 30, 2013
The Sex Life of Dogs in the Eighteenth Century

By Lisa Smith I started out rifling through old animal husbandry books on a whim, looking for references to beagles. (See The Art of Beagling and Buffon and the Beagle here at W&M.) Along the way, I discovered more than I’d ever guess about the canine sex life: mating tips, aphrodisiacs and birth control, and […]

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Buffon and the Beagle

by Lisa Smith June 30, 2013
Buffon and the Beagle

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Beagles, that adorable and humble breed of hunting dog, were at the centre of a debate about the meaning of civilisation and nature in the eighteenth century. Long before Charles Darwin, scientists (or natural philosophers as they were called at the time) wanted to understand the process of breeding, as […]

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The Art of Beagling in Eighteenth-Century England

by Lisa Smith May 30, 2013
The Art of Beagling in Eighteenth-Century England

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Snoopy, the world’s most famous beagle, epitomizes several of the breed’s traits: the dangly ears, the prominent snout, the fixation on food. But in the cartoon, he retreats regularly to an imaginary world of adventures to escape the monotony of a dog’s life. An eighteenth-century beagle’s life would, perhaps, have […]

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Masturbation and the Dangerous Woman

by Lisa Smith April 30, 2013
Masturbation and the Dangerous Woman

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Remember all those playground stories about masturbation causing hairy palms and blindness? Those tales go way back. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, much ink was spilled on the devastation that masturbation would cause. Men’s frequent self-pleasuring would destroy the fibres of their penis, and the masturbator would become effeminate, […]

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An Old Doctor, a Convent Apothecary, and an Eighteenth-Century Medical Dispute

by Lisa Smith March 2, 2013
An Old Doctor, a Convent Apothecary, and an Eighteenth-Century Medical Dispute

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor In December 1718, Dr. Tolozé, who styled himself an ‘Ancien Medecin’ (Old Doctor), wrote to physician Étienne-François Geoffroy.[1] Tolozé wanted Geoffroy to settle a dispute between him and the nuns of St. Eutrope near Chartres. Geoffroy, he believed, was well-placed to help, being the doctor of a Mme Cossins who […]

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Medicinal Compounds, Efficacious in Every Case

by Lisa Smith January 30, 2013
Medicinal Compounds, Efficacious in Every Case

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Perhaps the most famous cure-all of all time is Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, immortalized in song as “Lily the Pink” (or “The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham”).* Although the original vegetable compound aimed to treat women’s ailments, the song suggests—tongue in cheek–that it might have much wider, rather miraculous applications. […]

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A Botanist, a Butcher and a Body: Encountering an Eighteenth-Century Vrykolakas

by Lisa Smith October 30, 2012
A Botanist, a Butcher and a Body: Encountering an Eighteenth-Century Vrykolakas

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor From 1700-1702, French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort journeyed through the Greek islands and Constantinople. The following tale is his account of a Greek revenant (vrykolakas) on the island of Mykonos (A Voyage into the Levant, vol. 1, 1718). The story begins with the unsolved murder of a local “ill-natur’d and […]

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The Ghost of a Murderous Midwife

by Lisa Smith September 30, 2012
The Ghost of a Murderous Midwife

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Helen King recently discussed the long history of depicting midwives as murderers. In the lively comments section, Michelle Moon wondered whether midwives were frequently prosecuted for infanticide. In short, the answer is no. But that didn’t mean there weren’t stories! One such murderous midwife, Mrs Adkins, played a starring role in a […]

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A Modern Exercise in Making an Old Herbal Remedy

by Lisa Smith July 30, 2012
A Modern Exercise in Making an Old Herbal Remedy

By Lisa Smith Earlier this month, I attended the newly revived Fairlop Fair, lured by the promise of dogs in silly costumes, bearded ladies, and Georgian medicine. My companions were leery of attending a medical herbalist’s workshop on eighteenth-century remedies, but the ominous clouds decided us: the workshop was undercover. I have studied early modern recipes for […]

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Imagining Vampires

by Lisa Smith June 30, 2012
Imagining Vampires

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Vampires were the flavour of the month, with two very different types of vampires on show: the staked skeletons of an archaeological discovery and the sexy beasts starring in a new season of a certain TV programme. The division of these two types can be traced to the eighteenth century. […]

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The Puppy Water and Other Early Modern Canine Recipes

by Lisa Smith May 31, 2012
The Puppy Water and Other Early Modern Canine Recipes

At first I thought it was a joke when I read a recipe for “The Puppy Water” in a recipe collection compiled by one Mary Doggett in 1682. “Take one Young fatt puppy and put him into a flatt Still Quartered Gutts and all ye Skin upon him”, then distill it along with buttermilk, white […]

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