Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Fanny Burney's mastectomy

If only Hymphry Davy had thought to apply his discoveries from his experiments with nitrous oxide to the relief of the agonies undergone during surgery. Here is one especially harrowing case-study.

In 1811the novelist Fanny D'Arblay (née Burney) was living in France with her French husband. She was now fifty-nine and she had not seen England for nine years. The D'Arblays had journeyed to France during a brief interlude in the Napoleonic Wars, but when the peace broke down they found themselves stranded there. Fanny was cut off from her family, and she was not sure that the letter she wrote to her sister describing her operation would ever reach her. But all the same she had to write it; the experience was so traumatic that she was unable to keep it to herself.

You can read it here.

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