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Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewomans Companion, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Katherine Ellison

by Anonymous

date: 1673
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Dorman Newman
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

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What is to be observed by a Gentlewoman before she undertakes the administration of Physick.83

THe first inconvenience you must shun (which I have observed in most Physical Practitioners) is the vulgar error of not suffering the diseased or sick person to change his linnen often; and I know not by what unreasonable prescription they will not suffer a diseased female to change her head-clothes, till it too sensibly offend the noses of the Visitants. Their common objection is, That the sick by that means may catch cold; and next, That their shifting much weakneth them.

To this I answer, That it is only the foolish conjecture and groundless fear of some old Dotard of our sex; for a good fire will easily prevent catching of cold; and in the next place, their often shifting hath apparently proved the means of their strengthning; besides it much discourageth and dejecteth the sick person to lie in foul linnen, making them even loath themselves in that stinking condition. To make this the more easily understood, take notice, that in humane bodies there is a threefold Concoction; the first in the stomack, which is commonly called the Chyle84 , and hath for its excrement that which is convey'd to Colon or the great Gut; the second concoction is in the Liver, and hath for its excrement the Urine; the last is called Nutrition, and hath for its excrement certain fuliginous85 vapours, which by insensible transpiration do breath out themselves through the pores of the body, and by the sweat, which is apparent to the eye. Now in times of Sickness, especially in all sorts of Fevers (which are the usual diseases which invade English bodies) this last excrement doth very much abound, and doth extreamly and speedily foul the Linnen of the sick person; for which cause reason tells us, that the Linnen should be often shifted, especially if, they sweat much, lest the sweat continuing about the body, it should be drawn in by the same way it had its passage out. For know the Arteries of the body have a double motion, one whereby they expel the Excrements, already mention'd; and the other whereby they attract into the body the ambient Air to refresh the blood: Now observe, whatsoever Air is next unto them, whether good or bad they draw it in; and therefore if this foul sweaty Linnen do lie about, or upon them, undoubtedly the noisome airs will be drawn in by the Arteries, and so prolong the distemper. To make further proof hereof, I have heard it reported by an eminent Physician, that let any person newly come out of the Bath go into a place where quantity of dust is rais'd, and he shall instantly feel an universal pricking over his whole body which is nothing else but the Atoms of dust drawn in by the Arteries. By this then you may understand, that the skin ought to be cleansed from all corruption, and the pores and passages to be kept open and clean; for which cause it was that the Romans of old had their bodies frequently rubbed with a coarse cloth. Thus much I have added likewise, to let Gentlewomen see how much they are abused by their credulous and ignorant Nurses.

Should I add other observables, with the Symptoms of Diseases, I should swell this small Treatise into a greater volume than is requisite. I shall therefore desist and give you my | | 29 collection (with my own observation) of the choicest receipts in Physick and Chirugery86 I could meet with in my strictest indigation.


Page 28 - 83. Hobby points out that, while it was conventional for women to take their expertise with recipes and cookery into the medical field to cure members of their own family, it was not acceptable for a woman to take her knowledge to the public level. To do so, Hobby finds, was to risk accusations of witchcraft or quackery (177). Wolley appears to have been exempt from these accusations, but others, like Joan Peterson, were not so lucky (177). Ada Wallas states that Wolley's remedies "were perhaps no better and no worse than those of an average apothecary of her day" (28).

Page 28 - 84. 'Chyle': intestinal fluid.

Page 28 - 85. 'fuliginous': smoky or sooty.

Page 29 - 86. 'Chirugery': surgery.

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