Chapter

‘Ill in My Body, but Well in God’: Suffering Sickness

Hannah Newton

in The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199650491
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741647 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199650491.003.0007
‘Ill in My Body, but Well in God’: Suffering Sickness

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The previous chapter was about the experience of the practical consequences of illness — care or patienthood. Chapter Six, by contrast, is about the experience of sickness itself: it asks what it was like being ill, in pain, and near death. It is argued that children’s experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: whilst sickness was often painful, frightening, and a source of grief, it could also be a time of emotional and spiritual fulfilment, and even occasionally, joy. The more positive side stemmed from entrenched Christian beliefs about the value of pain, and the doctrines of providence and salvation. This interpretation nuances our understanding of the psychological culture of Protestantism, demonstrating that Calvinist doctrines could be a source of comfort as well as guilt. Three aspects of the sickness experience have been identified, around which the chapter is structured: physical pain; the providential origin of sickness; and the anticipation of death.

Keywords: child; pain; suffering; illness; death; emotions; religion; salvation; providence; love

Chapter.  17231 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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