Guide The Sickroom

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Nor was she unusual in this respect.

Death in the Sick-Room, prob. 1893

Martineau dedicates her work to fellow-invalids whom she imagines will be sympathetic to her experiences in the sickroom, and to her claim that suffering can afford invalids greater insight, especially about the transience of this world. This type of dedication is typical of Victorian writing about invalidism. Or, if they can, it seems as if the perception were accompanied by a breathless fear,--a dread of being, if not crushed, whirled away somewhere, hurried along to new regions for which they are unprepared, and to which, however good, they would prefer the familiar.

You and I, and our fellow-sufferers, see differently, whether or not we see further. We know and feel, to the very centre of our souls, that there is no hurry, no crushing, no devastation attending Divine processes.

While we see the whole system of human life rising and rising into a higher region and a purer light, we perceive that every atom is as much cared for as the whole. When we see men straining every nerve to reach the tempting apples which are to prove dust and ashes in their jaws, [xiv] we see also, by virtue of our position, the flying messenger who is descending with the ambrosia which is to feed their immortal part.


This is our peculiar privilege, of seeing and feeling something of the simultaneous vastness and minuteness of providential administration, is one in which we most enjoy sympathy;--at least, I doand in this, therefore, do I find your undoubted fellowship most precious. Everyone has felt this, in regard to some one proverb, or divine scriptural clause, or word of some right royal philosopher or poet.

The sickroom in Victorian fiction: the art of being ill

Let any one then try to conceive of an extension of this realization through all that has ever been wisely said of man and human life, and he will be endeavouring to imagine our experience. Engrossing, thrilling, overpowering as the experience is, we have each to bear it alone; for each of us is surrounded by the active and the busy, who have a different gift and a different office;--and if not, it is one of those experiences which are incommunicable. Nevertheless, I should reply that there is one, to me more powerful at present than I can now conceive any single idea to have been in any former state of mind.

I can conceive the amazement of many at this announcement,--of many even who admit its truth, and feelingly admit it, as I myself did when it was first brought home to me from the printed page of one friend by the heart-breathing voice of another. I care not who wonders, and who only half understands, while there are some few to whom this thought may be what it is to me.

sickroom | Definition from the Hospital topic | Hospital

But perhaps it is only the practiced in human sorrows who can see far enough into the boundless truth of this thought to appreciate its worth to us. Suffice it here that it has the power I ascribe to it, and that we whom it has consoled long to administer it when we see old age restless in its infirmity, activity disappointed of its scope or instruments, or the most useful agents of society, the most indispensable members of families paralysed by disease.

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We long to whisper it in the dungeons of Spielberg, [1] where it opens a career within the narrowest recess of those thick walls. We long to send a missive to every couch of the sick, to every arm-chair of the aged and the blind, reminding them that the great work of life is ours still,--through all modes of life but that of the madhouse, [2] --the formation of a heavenly soul within us.

His work was widely translated and inspired sympathy for the unification of Italy.

Victorian Review

In alluding to him, Martineau suggests that a life of confinement, be it from imprisonment or illness, can lead to the development of a Christian temperament. Martineau, Harriet. The painting is very much in Munch's version of the synthetist style - flattened areas enclosed by strong contours.

The receding floorboards converge towards different vanishing points approximately on a horizontal axis, thus flouting naturalistic perspective. This has the effect of both flattening and widening the room.

View from the Sickroom: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Writing Women's Lives of Illness

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