A Cure for Melancholy: Victorian Medical Advice on Treating Depression

“Melancholy is a low kind of delirium, with a fever; usually attended with fear, heaviness, and sorrow, without any apparent occasion.”
Beach’s Family Physician, 1861.

Melancholy by Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens, 1876.

What we recognize today as depression was, in the Victorian era, popularly known as melancholia or melancholy.  Like depression, melancholy ranged in seriousness from mild, temporary bouts of sadness or “low spirits” to longer, more extreme episodes, characterized by insomnia, lack of appetite, and suicidal thoughts.  While symptoms of melancholy were usually easy to recognize, medical opinions often differed on what it was that caused the condition.  As a result, treatment plans for the melancholic patient varied widely.  Below, we look at a few Victorian era medical opinions on the symptoms, causes, and treatments of melancholy.[…]Continue Reading

From Crinolines to Cross-Dressing Balls: A Two Year Anniversary Digest

Euphemia White Van Rensselear by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1842.

It’s my blogiversary!  Today, MimiMatthews.com is two years old.  I have no idea what the two year mark of a successful blog looks like, but I feel incredibly fortunate that my site continues to receive such a positive response.  I am especially grateful to all of my wonderful subscribers and to everyone who takes the time to comment on my articles.  Your readership means the world![…]Continue Reading

Katrina: A Victorian Ballet of Cats

Katti Lanner, lithograph by Adolf Dauthage, 1861.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical Cats was not the first production to feature a cast of dancers dressed in cat costumes.  Nearly one hundred years earlier, a ballet called Katrina made its debut at the Empire Theatre in London.  Arranged by choreographer Kattie Lanner and set to music by composer Leopold Wenzel, it featured two intertwined stories.  The first concerned the love affairs of a young student. The second—and far more interesting—took place in the Kingdom of Cats. […]Continue Reading

A Victorian Era Criminal Leads Police on a High Speed Bicycle Chase

Bicycle Detail, Poster of the Société Parisienne, 1895.

In September of 1896, British newspapers reported the remarkable use of a bicycle in a New Jersey murder case.  The case involved two men who had both emigrated to America from London in the early 1890s.  One of these men was a farmer named Mr. Haggett who settled down with his family on a farm near Somerville.  The other man was a fellow named Mr. Clossen who Haggett employed as a farm laborer.  Sometime in 1896, Haggett caught Clossen stealing.  In consequence, he not only fired him from his job, but also refused to pay him the thirty dollars in wages that Clossen believed he was owed.[…]Continue Reading

Victorian Valentine's Day Verses for Rejecting Unwanted Suitors

The Two Central Figures in Derby Day by William Powell Frith, 1860.(Met Museum)
The Two Central Figures in “Derby Day” by William Powell Frith, 1860.
(Met Museum)

Published in 1875, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer is a book intended for Victorian ladies and gentlemen “who wish to address those they love in suitable terms.”  It contains a variety of Valentine verses, ranging from the sweet to the satirical.  The book promises that these “Love Lyrics” are harmless and that even the more comical lines do not descend into vulgarity.  But what these verses lack in vulgarity, they more than make up for in unkindness and—in some instances—outright cruelty.[…]Continue Reading