Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cough, spitting, and fever

‘Mrs. Evans was displeas’d with some of my Maid Servants for employing one to Hang her Dog which was found & brought to her dead; Though they all vehemently deny’d it. My Wife was so Ill with a Cough, Spitting, & a Fever, she kept Chamber.’ Just another day in the life of a 17th-18th century physician. This is from the diary of Dr Claver Morris, who was baptised 360 years ago today. The diary is surprisingly interesting, as Dr Claver goes about his work (smallpox was rife), seeing to his estates (making hedges and ditches), pressing lemons for mixing with French brandy, making snuff, and showing pride in his son’s progress at school.

Morris was baptised on 1 May 1659 at Bishop’s Caundle in Dorset, the youngest of several children born to William Morris, rector of Manston, and his wife. Not much is known of his childhood, but he studied for several degrees at New Inn Hall, Oxford, and, in 1683, he became an extra licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. He set up practice in the city of Wells, where he also developed remedies for use with his own patients and for distributing through local apothecaries.

Morris seems to have been very successful, and ultimately became a wealthy man. This was partly because he invested wisely, and partly because he married well, three times in fact (his first two wives dying young). He had a daughter with his first wife Grace, though wife and child died within a year of each other. He had a daughter by his second wife (the widow Elizabeth Jeans) - this was his beloved Betty, who later disappointed him sorely by marrying clandestinely and under age. Nevertheless, she had a happy marriage with numerous descendants. Morris also had a daughter and son with his third wife, Molly Bragge (though the daughter died in infancy, and the son died in his 30th year).

Morris’s interests ranged widely from science to music; and he held several local offices at various times in his life, such as commissioner for land tax, commissioner for sewers, and commissioner for the enclosure of two commons near Glastonbury. He was made a burgess of the city. He died in 1727, and was buried in Wells Cathedral. Wikipedia and The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required) have some further biographical details.

Morris Claver would barely be remembered today but for the notebooks and diaries he left behind. He kept detailed accounts between 1684 and 1726, themselves very informative, and then a diary in 1709-1710 and from 1718 to 1726. According to the ODNB, these manuscripts ‘provide a unique glimpse into the life of a successful provincial professional man in late Stuart and early Hanoverian England’. The diaries and accounts were first edited by Edmund Hobhouse and published by Simpkin Marshall in 1934 as The Diary of a West Country Physician A.D. 1684-1726. A brief review can be read in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, but otherwise there is very little information online about the book. Here, though, is a selection of extracts as edited by Hobhouse.

19 November 1720
‘I got up before 6, & lighted my Candle by the help of my Tinder-Box in my Saddle-Baggs.’

21 November 1720
‘I was at Close-Hall at our Practice of the Cecilia Song for tomorrow. Mr. Dingleton came in with us I having sent for him to Bristow to assist our Consort with his Basson, Trumpet, or Hautboy.’

22 November 1720
‘I went to the Cathedral, & join’d in the Practice of the Anthem, it being St. Cecilia’s-day. I return’d to the Church, & play’d the Anthem. I had a new Hand made of Deal, by Thomas Parfit, put into the Time-Beater. . . I went to our Cecilia-Meeting at Close-Hall where we had very good Musick, & we perform’d every Piece exactly. We had but 33 who pay’d 2s a piece for Tickets: I pay’d for my Wife, Son, Daughter, Her Husband, Mrs. Evans, & my self 12s. When all the Expenses were discharg’d, 9s-5d were lay’d out more than we had receiv’d.’

24 November 1720
‘Mr. Hillard the Apothecary came to desire me to go to that vicious Woman Mrs. Franklin dangerously Ill of the Small-Pox; But I refus’d to have anything to do with her.’

6 December 1720
‘Thomas Parfit, Charles Taylor, & I went to West-Bradley, to meet Mr. Gardener the Church-warden there, at the Church, whose Timber (the Lead of one side being sometime since taken off to be new wrought,) was found to be utterly decayd, & rotted. We all concluded there must be a Roof entirely new: But did not come to a settled agreement with Thomas Parfit, for how much Money to have it done. We afterwards went down into Baltonsbury North-wood, & measur’d my new made Hedge & Ditch (which were 5350 Chains; & also measur’d that which Astin or Bower were to make against my Enclosure which to mine own expense, & loss of Ground. Having to do with a couple of Rogues, I order’d my Hedgers to Dike & plant with Quick-Sets like the rest, being 6s, 43 Chains. The Water rose so high in the Brook by Cowards that the Horses were driven over it & just like to swim, & I went over the Bridge on Foot, & came through Gardeners Grounds to Mr. James Slade’s in West-Pennard. I had Thomas Parfit, & Charles Taylor after their supping with me to our Musick-Meeting, when Miss Catherine Layng, & a Young Woman who was a Singer in Hereford-shire who had an extraordinary fine Voice, & a very good manner. Sung.’

18 January 1721
‘I made some Lemon-Butter for my Perukes. Henry Coxe Sold me his Estate at West-Bradley for 400L, & I gave him 5 Guineas in Earnest, & we afterwards Executed a Covenant of this Bargain, at the Crown-Inn.’

21 January 1721
‘Eve Stacy came, & for her Husband (he being afraid of the Small-Pox) Agreed to Rent Puridge another Year. Mary Gould my Cook-Maid was so Ill in Convulsive Cough that all concluded she was Dieing.’

9 March 1721
‘Mrs. Evans was displeas’d with some of my Maid Servants for employing one to Hang her Dog which was found & brought to her dead; Though they all vehemently deny’d it. My Wife was so Ill with a Cough, Spitting, & a Fever, she kept Chamber.’

27 March 1721
‘I went to Mr. Hill’s to take the Wager of a Bottle of Wine he lost to me about the time of William the Conquerer’s Reigne. Mr. Lucas, Mr. Burland, & Mr. G. Mattocks, were there. We stay’d ’till 11.’

30 March 1721
‘I was at the Grammar-School, & heard the Orations, Declamations, & Verses, spoken by the Boys, My Son Speaking a Copy of Verses.’

10 April 1721
‘I went to Baltonsbury, (it being Easter Monday,) & carried the Deed of Allotment of the several Shares of the Proprietors in Baltonsbury North-Wood; Which I deliverd (in the Presence of Henry Bull,) to Mr. John Cowper; And he promis’d me he would take care it should be put in, & kept in the Church-Coffer.’

4 January 1725
‘I went (being last night desir’d) before 11 to Mr Keen’s whither Mr Baron of New-Street came to me. He being pitch’d on as a Referee by Captain Gendrault; as I was by Mr Keen to adjust their Claims to the Goods Mrs Keen died possessed of. . . . We after much contrasting this matter, concluded to have Sergeant Earl’s Advice, after Mr Keen & Captain Gendrault had enter’d into Bonds of Award: And if Mr Baron & I could not come to agree in our Determination, we should choose a Third Person whose appointment should be final.’

6 January 1725
‘I heard my Son Construe in the Greek Testament. . . I went to Mr Cupper’s Shop, & his Wife gave me 2 Glasses of her Clove-Wine.’

9 January 1725
‘My young Elms were brought from Bristow. James Whitehead came & offer’d to pay the 5L I yielded to take for the great Mischief he did in Topping 39 Maiden Oaks. I order’d him to Pay Mr Goldfinch the Charge of the Law I commenced against him; Before his doing of which I told him I would not Receive this Money: Which he said he would do.’

15 January 1725
‘I pressed out the Juice of 60 Limons which I had from Bristow, & after it was strain’d through a Flannel Bag I mix’d with each Pint of it a Pottle of French Brandy and Bottled it.’

24 February 1725
‘I made me a Pound of each sort of my Snuff.’

17 March 1725
‘I went to Dulcot, Mr Pain Senr having appointed a Meeting betwixt us at 3 a clock, about cutting the River by Alderley’s Close, streight. I went according to the Time fixt; & stay’d in Alderley’s Close above an hour: Then Mr. Pain came, And as I supposed before he was for Securing his own Ground from the washing of the River, but not mine: So we did not come to an Agreement in the Affair. I had Will Clark with me, with my Perambulator, & Measured the Way. From my Gate to the Gate over-right the Old Lime-Kiln on Tor-Hill, it was Half a Mile; & to the Middle of Dulcot Bridge it was 1 Mile & 31 Pearches.’

1 April 1725
‘My Wife being very like to Die, I sate up with her till 2.’

3 April 1725
‘I made a Decoction & Gargle for my Wife. I sate up with my poor Dying Wife. My Daughter, Mrs Drew, Rachel Teek, & Mrs Evans also sate up.’

4 April 1725
‘I made Decoctions for my Wife’s Drink. . . . My (Wife) who seem’d better in the Morning would be taken up, & sitting up 7 hours too long was very ill & light-Headed. Mr Keen came to talk about his going to Mrs Morgan to make his Addresses to her. I sate up again with my poor Wife all night, She labouring her last for Life, & Breathing with the most deplorable difficulty.’

5 April 1725
‘At 2 a clock in [the] morning my Servant Mary Rogers (who with Mrs Batty (my Butcher’s Wife) & Rachel Tike watch’d with my Wife, Mrs Evans also sitting up with them,) sent to call up my Daughter Bettey Burland, according to her earnest desire, & Mrs Anne Drew. Bettey immediately came, & being in the utmost Passion of Grief was like to faint at her coming into the kitchin: But she ran up the Stairs; when she came where my Wife lay, she was in a great Agonie & cry’d out, Oh! my dear Mother I shall lose my best Friend! then she fell into a Swoon; & recovering from it, she said, Oh my Dear Brother! My poor Wife hearing it, in great concernment started up & ask’d, Is Willey Dead? (He being just recovering out of the Small Pox). I told her he was very well. But she was so affected with the distrust of it, that to satisfie her Fear I was fain to make him get on his Clothes, & come to her; And the sight of him seemd (even though delirious) to please her, & she looking upon him, being orderd by me to turn himself advantagiously to the Light of the Candle that she perfectly see his Face, said she never saw him look better in her Life. Then he kiss’d her, & return’d to his Bed. Mrs Anne Drew (being call’d by Mr Burlands Man-Servant,) came shortly after my Daughter; And both continued with my Dear Wife who from a Death Sweat grew in her Hands & Arms very cold, left speaking in two or 3 hours, & half an hour after Ten in the Forenoon she Breath[ed] her last.

I sent to have Rings, Escutcheons, &c, made. In the Evening I sent for my Daughter & she came, Mr Lucas came, & then Mr Burland, & they Eat Bread & Cheese.’

18 May 1725
’I made an end Writing my Will.’

The Diary Junction

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