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

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

Chapter:
(p.11) 1 “All My Afflictions”: Invalids and Authority in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Source:
Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Author(s):
Maria H. Frawley
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226261225.003.0002

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

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