Victorian London - Health and Hygiene - Medical Advice, Cures and Technology - 'Domestic Medicine'

The domestic arrangements of those days were very different to what they are now, and as such, I think, deserve a few words here. My mother was a great believer in medicine, especially in domestic medicine, and we suffered in due course. Every year in the early spring she made a jorum of treacle and brimstone, which she kept on the washing-stand shelf in Papa's dressing-room, a wooden spoon in it coming through a hole in the paper cover, and for about a fortnight she enacted the part of Mrs. Squeers on her unfortunate offspring. But at last, the devil having entered us, we incited Willie to eat the lot at one sitting, and the result was so disastrous that she gave up the brimstone and treacle régime from that day. Then there was an awful dose the nurses called "sinner and pruines" (senna and prunes), which was brought hot and odoriferous at dawn to the unhappy invalid. Rhubarb and magnesia had been tried, hut as we invariably rose, smashed the cup, and sprinkled the bed and bearer, it was given up; and our worst dose was hot castor oil and milk, shaken together in a bottle and poured from the bottle down our throats. A strong peppermint lozenge somewhat mitigated our woes, while those  who had not been dosed incited the invalid to dance, so that the hideous liquid might be heard to wobble about inside the victim, which shows what  imagination will do! Then we had powders, but these the doctor brought; Mama did not make these. It fell to her and Miss Wright to conceal them in different vehicles, hoping to take us in, and cause us to take them in in their turn. But we always found out in time to avoid the gritty deposit, and at one time the two busts which stood half-way up the stairs on red pedestals were full of figs which we concealed there, and were never discovered, as far as we knew; or if our dear friend, the housemaid, found them she at all events never told of us, but simply burned them. In October Mama brought out her small and precious silver saucepan, and over a fire lighted specially in her bedroom- fires were never allowed upstairs except in cases of real and severe illness-she would concoct camphor balls for chapped hands, which we were allowed to roll up in silver paper to preserve them for use, and a salve for the lips made from wax and a sweetly scented rose-essence, which we fetched from the chemist's shop in Oxford Street

Mrs. Panton, Leaves from a Life, 1908