Samuel Pepys epitomized the medical beliefs of the 17th century British patient. In his 1663 diary he chronicled his diseases and noted the perceived causes and treatments of those diseases. Pepys believed there could be multiple causes for disease, including religion, humoral imbalance, and the need to initiate flux. He also relied on multiple different sources for treatment. Often Pepys would self-treat, but he also relied on friends and his doctor, Mr. Holliard, to suggest remedies. Pepys believed in multiple, legitimate strategies for identifying and treating disease. Individuals assigned many different causes to their diseases in the 17th and 18th century. One of the most common conceptions of disease was as punishment or sign from God. Most Western Europeans in this time period were pious, including Pepys.
[...] Holliard believed in the effects of internal constitution and flux on health, just as Pepys did. Pepys said he “took some powder that he did give me in white wine” (Latham and Matthews 327) and that Mr. Holliard sent him bottles of drink and some Syrrop, one bottle to take now and the other tomorrow morning” (Latham and Matthews 328). Later, Pepys resorted to self-treatment when he had his wife administer a clyster but also took pinte of strong ale, four ounces of Sugar, and two ounces of butter” (Latham and Matthews 332). [...]
[...] Being exposed to a cold and wet climate could cause the humors to get out of balance and produce symptoms of disease. Individuals would then attempt to increase the amount of hot and dry forces acting on their body to counter-balance the original presence of the cold, wet influences. Pepys wanted to keep his humors in balance and offered many humoral explanations for the symptoms he experienced. He described that carrying some heavy items up and down the stairs with his wife [him in a violent sweat]” (Latham and Matthews 320). [...]
[...] When Pepys described the rules for his health, the third rule was “either by physic forward or by clyster backward, or both ways, to get an easy and plentiful going to stool and breaking of wind” (Latham and Matthews 333). In this way, medicinal remedies, rather than having instrinsic healing capabilities, worked within the humoral system to increase flow. Mr. Holliard subscribed to the same humoral beliefs as Pepys and his contemporaries, and the remedies he suggested for Pepys did not differ meaningfully from the advice of Pepys' friends or his own self-treatments. [...]
[...] Since God was the cause of disease and the symptoms caused by disease, when Pepys was not exhibiting symptoms, he believed God was being merciful. Individuals believed there were many different, constitutive causes to every disease. Thus, while Pepys believed that his disease had a religious cause, he also believed that imbalances in the humoral system caused disease. The humoral system was based on the belief that human beings were comprised of four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. [...]
[...] However, for Pepys treatments like wine and food were medical because they helped him maintain the proper diet, which was a key part of his regimen. Pepys recognized the medical treatments as legitimate even while believing in the humoral system. Pepys said, called at Mr. Holliards, who did give me some pills and tells me I shall have my hearing again and be well” (Latham and Matthews 319). After Pepys received these pills he began to take them continually. He described taking them at night, to bed, taking one of my pills” (Latham and Matthews 319) and upon waking, “Took two pills more in the morning” (Latham and Matthews 319). [...]
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