“A Plague of Lust”: Love, Marriage, and Venereal Disease

~This post is courtesy Melissa Grafe, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History, Head of the Medical Historical Library.

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day!  We thought we would focus on love, marriage, and venereal disease, sampling the many books on these topics that you can find in the Medical Heritage Library.

Guides for marriage are well represented in the Medical Heritage Library, as many of these popular texts deal with topics of health, pregnancy, and child rearing.  Sexual relations, if mentioned at all, are coyly alluded to within the texts, and eugenics often appears in the manuals from the early 20th century.,

The heplagueoflustbein01rose_0007althy marriage, a medical and psychological guide for wives (1916) may be helpful on the days where coping with the husband is particularly challenging.  This guide describes the art of housekeeping, miscarriage, pregnancy, “difficulty of getting exercise in town,” and much more.

Alternately, husbands also received valuable advice in manuals like The young husband, or, Duties of man in the marriage relation (1840)In this text, by William Alcott, husbands are cautioned against jealousy and suspicion, coached on “keeping cool,” and “giving presents and little things,” helpful beyond Valentine’s Day!

See others, using just a simple search of the term marriage.

On the flip side of love, sex, and marriage, the Medical Heritage Library also has a robust collection of materials on venereal disease.  We have the classic works, like Dr. John Hunter’s A treatise on the venereal disease (1791)Issued in many editions, including this 1791 Philadelphia text, Hunter believed that gonorrhea and syphilis were caused by the same disease agent, and encouraged the use of mercury for treatment, prior to the development of an effective drug, Salvarsan, in the early 20th century.

Other titles are more playful, such as The plague of lust : being a history of venereal disease in classical antiquity … (1909) by Dr. Julius Rosenbaum. Feel free to browse our texts on venereal disease here!

 

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