About Me

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I lead workshops at the British Library, on literature, language, art, history, and the culture of the book; and teach the history of printing at other institutions. I research language usage during the First World War, and lead the Languages and the First World War project. Author of Discovering Words, Discovering Words in the Kitchen, Evolving English Explored, Team Talk - sporting words & their origins, Trench Talk - the Language of the First World War (with Peter Doyle); How to Cure the Plague; The Finishing Touch; and Words and the First World War. As an artist I work in performance, public engagement, and intervention using drawing, curating, text, changing things and embroidery.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

An Elizabethan scare-cure

A mouse rotted and given to children to eat remedieth pissing the bed.

The Widowes Treasure, 1595

Careful reading makes it clear that the children were given the mouse to eat, not actually directed to eat it. Presumably the intention was to provoke the response - 'No, I honestly won't wet the bed, ever again, Only don't make me eat the rotten mouse.'

However, given the nature of Elizabethan medicine we cannot be sure. People were regularly pouring down their throats water distilled from other people's body parts, oils derived from boiled frogs and toads, powdered snail-shells and fish-bones and glass, and goodness knows what else. It is not unlikely that some brave children took a deep breath and a courageous bite of rotten mouse, and no doubt were very, very ill. And were treated appropriately.

1 comment:

  1. I've done a bit of research on the history of bedwetting treatments and let's just say that I'm so glad that the treatments today are much more ethical and less dangerous! There's a new bedwetting infographic that shows some of the bedwetting treatments of the past: http://bedwettingstore.com/history-of-bedwetting.html ...I do have to wonder if some of the earlier ones were effective at all.