View Single Post
Old 01-29-2014, 10:36 AM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Bohemia. A seacoast.
Posts: 6,370
There's an academic article about this that is a pretty interesting read, if you have access to JSTOR. It's by Audrey Peterson, "Brain Fever in Nineteenth-Century Literature: Fact and Fiction," Victorian Studies 19.4 (1976): 445-464. Peterson examines a whole bunch of literary and medical references to "brain-fever." What she concludes, basically, is that people in the nineteenth century seem to have conceived of it as a physical disease characterized by "inflammation of the brain," not just a euphemism for temporary insanity (although temporary mental derangement IS one of the symptoms, making it an especially convenient malady for writers). "Brain-fever" had a recognizable course of symptoms and the potential to be fatal; however, it was caused not by infection, but by a sudden shock or mental distress. (We now know this is medically impossible, but nineteenth-century doctors seem to have fully believed it.)