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Hypochondriasis A Practical Treatise (1766)   By: (1714?-1775)

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First Page:

The Augustan Reprint Society



A Practical Treatise.


Introduction by


Publication Number 135 William Andrews Clark Memorial Library University Of California, Los Angeles 1969


William E. Conway, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library George Robert Guffey, University of California, Los Angeles Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles


David S. Rodes, University of California, Los Angeles


Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan James L. Clifford, Columbia University Ralph Cohen, University of Virginia Vinton A. Dearing, University of California, Los Angeles Arthur Friedman, University of Chicago Louis A. Landa, Princeton University Earl Miner, University of California, Los Angeles Samuel H. Monk, University of Minnesota Everett T. Moore, University of California, Los Angeles Lawrence Clark Powell, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library James Sutherland, University College, London H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., University of California, Los Angeles Robert Vosper, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Mary Kerbret, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


"When I first dabbled in this art, the old distemper call'd Melancholy was exchang'd for Vapours , and afterwards for the Hypp , and at last took up the now current appellation of the Spleen , which it still retains, tho' a learned doctor of the west, in a little tract he hath written, divides the Spleen and Vapours , not only into the Hypp , the Hyppos , and the Hyppocons; but subdivides these divisions into the Markambles , the Moonpalls , the Strong Fiacs , and the Hockogrokles ."

Nicholas Robinson, A New System of the Spleen, Vapours, and Hypochondriack Melancholy (London, 1729)

Treatises on hypochondriasis the seventeenth century medical term for a wide range of nervous diseases were old when "Sir" John Hill, the eccentric English scientist, physician, apothecary, and hack writer, published his Hypochondriasis in 1766.[1] For at least a century and a half medical writers as well as lay authors had been writing literature of all types (treatises, pamphlets, poems, sermons, epigrams) on this most fashionable of English maladies under the variant names of "melancholy," "the spleen," "black melancholy," "hysteria," "nervous debility," "the hyp." Despite the plethora of materia scripta on the subject it makes sense to reprint Hill's Hypochondriasis , because it is indeed a "practical treatise" and because it offers the modern student of neoclassical literature a clear summary of the best thoughts that had been put forth on the subject, as well as an explanation of the causes, symptoms, and cures of this commonplace malady.

No reader of seventeenth and eighteenth century English literature needs to be reminded of the interest of writers of the period in the condition "disease" is too confining a term hypochondriasis.[2] Their concern is apparent in both the poetry and prose of two centuries. From Robert Burton's Brobdingnagian exposition in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) to Tobias Smollett's depiction of the misanthropic and ailing Matthew Bramble in Humphry Clinker (1771), and, of course, well into the nineteenth century, afflicted heroes and weeping heroines populate the pages of England's literature. There is scarcely a decade in the period 1600 1800 that does not contribute to the literature of melancholy; so considerable in number are the works that could be placed under this heading that it actually makes sense to speak of the "literature of melancholy." A kaleidoscopic survey of this literature (exclusive of treatises written on the subject) would include mention of Milton's "Il Penseroso" and "L'Allegro," the meditative Puritan and nervous Anglican thinkers of the Restoration (many of whose narrators, such as Richard Baxter, author of the Reliquiae Baxterianae ,[3] are afflicted), Swift's "School of Spleen" in A Tale of a Tub , Pope's hysterical Belinda in the "Cave of Spleen," the melancholic "I" of Samuel Richardson's correspondence, Gray's leucocholy, the psychosomatically ailing characters of The Vicar of Wakefield and Tristram Shandy , Boswell's Hypochondriack Papers (1777 1783) contributed to the London Magazine , and such "sensible" and "sensitive" women as Mrs... Continue reading book >>

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