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Conclusion: ‘Death Is Only Their Desire’

  • Alanna Skuse
Open Access
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series

Abstract

This book began with the gruesome record made by Reverend John Ward of a mastectomy operation carried out on ‘Mrs Townsend’. In 1666, Ward added the following account:

Mrs. Townsend, of Alverston, being dead of a cancer, Mr. Eedes and I opened her breast in the outward part, and found it very cancrous; it had been broken, and a mellicerous part was yet remaining when we saw it, which being launct, yielded two porringers full of a very yellow substance…The flesh that was growne againe, after part was taken out, was of a hard gristly substance, which seemed very strange. The ribbs were not putrefied as we could discerne, nor anything within the breast of a cancrous nature, for we runne the knife with-inside the breast through the intercostal muscles. Dr. Needham hath affirmed that a cancer is as much within as without the breast, and he hath seen a string, as I was told, going from the breast to the uterus. I suppose it was the mammillarie veins full of knotts which were cancrous, and hung much like ropes of onions. The cancer was a strange one, as was evident; we wanted spunges and other things convenient, or else we had opened the cavitie of the breast.1

Notes

  1. Richard Wiseman, Several Chirurgical Treatises (second edition) (London: 1686), p. 117.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Reverend John Ward, Diary of the Rev. John Ward, A.M., Extending from 1648 to 1679, ed. Charles Severn (London: Henry Coldurn, 1839), pp. 245–7. From Internet Archive (online resource), http://www.archive.org, 2 March 2012.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Claude Deshaies Gendron, Enquiries into the Nature, Knowledge, and Cure of Cancers (London: 1701), pp. 119–20; Lazarius Riverius, The Practice of Physick (trans. with additions by Nicholas Culpeper, Abdiah Cole and William Rowland) (London: 1655), pp. 492–3; Daniel Sennert, Nicholas Culpeper and Abdiah Cole, Practical Physick: The Fourth Book, in Three Parts (London: 1664), p. 215.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Michael Stolberg, Experiencing Illness and the Sick Body in Early Modern Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 10.
    See Barron H. Lerner, The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), especially pp. 269–74.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Hephzibah Roskelly, ‘I Meditate on Descartes’, Social Semiotics 22:1 (February 2012), 35. See also Nadine Ehlers and Shiloh Krupar, ‘Introduction: The Body in Breast Cancer’, Social Semiotics 22:1 (February 2012), 1–11; James T. Patterson, The Dread Disease: Cancer and Modern American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), especially pp. 30–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Alanna Skuse 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alanna Skuse
    • 1
  1. 1.Folger Shakespeare LibraryUSA

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