Best Letter Find – #4

The best moment of my internship, and bear with me because I know this is going to sound boring at first, was when I discovered a letter to Lady Lisle from a physician, detailing everything that she needed to do to get better after her (possible) pregnancy.

This letter is pages long, so it took me a long time to type it into my database, but it was wonderful because most of the time medical advice, whether given or requested, is more rare than I thought it would be when I began my research. So to find such an amazing trove of information is incredible!

Moreover, this letter talks about balancing the humors, a common medieval medical belief that stretched back to the time of the Ancient Romans. I’m familiar with the theory behind the four humors, having had it beaten into my head by multiple health and history courses, but I was very excited to find evidence in my database that backs up what I’d learned in classes: medieval people were all about those humors.

I am also thrilled about this letter because it was written in response to Lady Lisle’s pregnancy. Childbirth is an interest of mine and medieval women’s experience with childbirth has fascinated me since I started research for this thesis. While historians aren’t sure whether or not Lady Lisle was actually pregnant, or just believed she was, it was a big deal to her and everyone around her. They all hoped and prayed for the birth of a boy, her first son born to Henry Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle. Unfortunately, the baby was never born, but this letter symbolizes the very real sickness that Lady Lisle was experiencing, and the many ways medieval people thought about sickness and the path to health.

I haven’t started analyzing this letter yet (that’s for next semester), but I’m so excited that I found it, because I know it will yield much information about women’s health and medieval medical advice.



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