“All My Afflictions”: Invalids and Authority in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Maria H. Frawley

in Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780226261201
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226261225 | DOI:
“All My Afflictions”: Invalids and Authority in Nineteenth-Century Britain

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In the first half of the nineteenth century, the figure of the invalid assumed a kind of public visibility unparalleled in earlier periods of English history. Charting the conditions that promoted this ascendancy, this chapter argues that the invalid assumed prominence because the figure apotheosized stasis. However “blessed” was the “borderland” that the invalid occupied, extended or chronic illness could also signify stagnation, immobility, and, in a broader sense, all that could be considered inconclusive. In “The Convalescent,” Charles Lamb evocatively likened his condition to a “flat swamp.” Epitomizing inertia, the invalid expressed the culture's profound skepticism not simply about the inability of scientific medicine to cure, but also about other social movements, institutions, and ideologies premised on the notion of progress—the economic progress of the nation, the spiritual progress of the pilgrim.

Keywords: invalid; public visibility; history; stasis; chronic illness; Convalescent; Charles Lamb; inertia; progress

Chapter.  20819 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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