There is a blue plaque on a house in Gower Street, near University College, London, commemorating not the birth, life or death of a notable occupant but instead the completion of a minor dental procedure – the extraction of the tooth of one Miss Lonsdale on 19 December 1846. The text of the plaque mentions neither the lady nor her dentist, but rather the simple fact that this was the first time an anaesthetic had been administered in England. The development of ether and chloroform as medical treatments, inhaled by patients prior to operations to render them temporarily insensible, transformed modern surgery and also marks a watershed in the history of pain. It was a defining moment in modernity. As Joanna Bourke notes in her vivid and varied catalogue of two and a half centuries of Anglo-American suffering, she, like most of us, would not contemplate undergoing even a modest medical procedure, let alone major surgery, without effective pain relief. Before 1846, patients entertained no such comfortable expectations. They could take their chances with willow bark, opium, bleeding, hypnosis or, perhaps most realistically, large amounts of alcohol. Others hoped they could rely on strength of character alone to endure amputations. Some succeeded; others died trying.
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Great pub day present: review of CRUCIBLE OF HELL in the @Lit_Review by Prof Malcom Murfett of KCL. 'Graphic and compelling.. Written with style and verve... David brings the ghastly mayhem of war to life in a vivid way.'
I had a couple of reservations about A Thousand Moons, but it's a captivating novel in many ways, and a worthy successor to Days Without End. Here's my review in this month's @Lit_Review https://literaryreview.co.uk/winona-rides-out
'I’m quite sure that Carroll is the only writer who has ever come near to retrieving a child’s vision of the world and that Alice is the expression of it.'
For #InternationalChildrensBookDay, Penelope Lively on the golden age of children's books.