Sep 012015
Victorian England -poor

Victorian England -poor

Victorian England - the rich

Victorian England – the rich


I’m getting this information from a book written by Ruth Goodman entitled, “How to be a Victorian.” It is an easy read with some startling revelations.

Sucking a Breast to Recover

The rich in Victorian England had the resources to spend on visiting doctors. They lived in dry and warm homes with servants to keep the fires burning and food that was nourishing. They were devoid of the infestation of rats, fleas and other vermin.

Being poor and sick often led to death. Often without fires, family members provided body heat to ill family members. A lactating mother was often brought in to provide breast milk to nourish poor people who were sick.  It was an old accepted nursing technique, prescribed in the Old Testament. Giving milk in this manner was considered a charitable act..

 Improved Food for Sick PersonsUnknown

Meat was considered a luxury in poor folk’s homes. The poor ate mostly bread and jam, or bread with fat from previous meat meals. For sick family members, soft-boiled eggs were expensive and it was a sacrifice made by all. A dish of calf’s food jelly was another purchase.

 images-1Health Workers Educate

Florence Nightingale (a lover of women) greatly enhanced caring for the sick. In her 1859 book, “Notes on Nursing,” Florence advocated the following:

Please windows and let fresh air circulate particularly in hospitals where there were many patients

– frequently empty chamber pots of fecal and urine matters

-provide simple but digestible meals and allow rest in peaceful and clean surroundings

How About a Nice Cheap Dose of Heroine?

Victorian England

Victorian England


Victorian England

Victorian England








If a rich or poor person sought relief from disease or pain, a visit to the local chemist/pharmacist would be in order.  In 1848, a compound was introduced by Dr. Collis Brown.   It relieved pain and made the patient very happy. Most people had no idea of its contents. It was a mixture of morphia (a form of morphine) and chloroform. It was extremely addictive. Later, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroine and cannabis were purchased alongside aspirin without a prescription. How about some Coca-wine that contained cocaine  On the other hand, the drug laudanum was prescribed but it had addictive properties. Florence Nightingale was said to be addicted to it?

 Poverty, Addiction and Death

There was addiction in high and low society. Alongside Florence Nightingale, these women were also addicted to laudanum: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (poet) and Elizabeth Siddall, wife and model of the painter and poet Rossetti. Even fictitious character, Sherlock Holmes, was dependent upon opium and heroin.

Victorians overseas

Victorians overseas

If the rich were addicted to drugs, they had the resources to hide it. A family member might be compelled to ‘recover’ in Europe; others would be closely guarded so as not to expose the family’s image of sobriety.   The poor, however, were the most vulnerable. Death certificates never mentioned addiction. Homeless and poor families simply died of “pnemonia” or “wasted away.” Those in workhouses were carried away with their hollow-cheeks and sunken eyes. They simply “died in their sleep.”

Charles Dickens wrote books describing the plight of the Victorian poor

Charles Dickens wrote books describing the plight of the Victorian poor

 Addiction a Curse for All Ages.

When I had my knee replaced, I was prescribed “oxyconten.” My friends were very concerned that I could become addicted.

When I was weaning myself off the drug (with medical help), I suffered ‘withdrawal’ sympthoms.   I would lay awake feeling

as if spiders or something crawling over my skin. I could not sleep. Luckily, I knew that these effects were not permanent and I persevered. Oxycontin never made me “high,” but it did help with the pain of knee surgery. It is necessary to make sure that all medicine is kept out of the reach of children, teens and other adults. Grandma’s medicine is easily stolen!

When I see the homeless on the street, with or without bottles of alcohol, I wonder what is the personal story of each person.


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