Many 18th century female writers took opiates

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Mar 13, 2018, 3:10 pm IST
Updated Mar 13, 2018, 3:10 pm IST
New research has found these literary women used a drug containing opium and even referenced it in their work.
Famous 18th century female writers used to take a drug that contained opium. (Photo: Pixabay)
 Famous 18th century female writers used to take a drug that contained opium. (Photo: Pixabay)

A new study has made a fascinating new discovery about 18th century female writers being dependent on laudanum, the Daily Mail reported.

Laudanum is a drug, which contains opium that was used as a painkiller back in the day. Today it is a prescription-only drug used to help treat opioid addicts with symptoms of withdrawal.

 

Dr Joseph Crawford, a senior lecturer at Exeter University spoke to The Observer about his research into the subject.

Crawford claims authors like Anna Seward and Harriet Martineau used the drug to deal with stress, depression and menstrual pain.

"For all of these women, opium formed part of ordinary domestic life, used to manage pain, illness and distress, and valued for its power to sedate and tranquillise rather than for its stimulant properties or its ability to induce dreams and visions," Crawford told The Observer.

Many of the female writers made references to the drug in their work. Mary Robinson wrote The Maniac in 1971, which is a poem about her visions after taking the drug in Bath.

"Robinson took 'near eighty drops of laudanum' for pains in her leg and that night she had dreams about a homeless madman she had seen in the streets of Bath that day," said Dr Crawford. "In the morning she dictated the poem to her daughter and then later claimed to have no memory of the incident."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning referred to laudanum as her "elixir" because of its "tranquilising power".

Dr Crawford's research will be published as part of a book called Psychopharmacology and British Literature: 1650 to 1900.





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