Family debts and an interest in medical books prompted the author to pursue a career as a sister at a hospital where an acquaintance was the head physician. The physician was impressed by the author's medical knowledge and invited her to replace an intemperate head nurse at the hospital. Describes one of her harrowing hospital experiences.
Introduces five lectures on local natural history given by Mr Townley, a Grovehill clergyman, to young members of his family. Townley aims to inculcate 'a true love of Him who has formed all things' by discovering in nature 'perfect harmony, and adaptability of every creature or object to its station, and fulfilling some fixed purpose' (25). The narrative is one of wonder, constantly upholding the beauty of botanical specimens. Townley discusses the physical features and properties of selected plants and flowers, and their history, local meaning, and harmonious place in nature. He hopes his audience will find in 'vegetable creation abundant proofs of God's omniscient design' (30).
Notes that women's present progress in science was quite unknown in the sixteenth century but that at the Government School of DesignGovernment School of Design, Dublin CloseView the register entry >> in Dublin, women students were recently awarded prizes in botany, chemistry, geometry, and optics. Adds that the only scientific subject in which a male student won a prize was anatomy. Thinks this proves the 'present great improvement in the education of ladies' and their superiority over men. (55)
Describes the physical features and the origin of the colour of the Gladiolus, 'Superb Corn-Flag'. Advises on growing the plant successfully. Describes the physical features, etymology, and provenance of dandelion-leaved evening primrose, and gives hints for its successful cultivation.
The introduction describes how Mr Townley gave his second lecture while accompanying his pupils on a walk. In the lecture, Townley notes the difficulties of classifying animal life and seeks to classify all animals from insects to 'the noblest archangel before God's throne', and to find proofs of 'the perfect adjustment of all animated bodies' to the duties which God had 'destined for them to perform'. Notes the etymology of ornithology (83). Describes the 'wondrous' physical features and habits of the eagle. The narrator states how Townley then described the habits and habitats of the hobby hawk (84–5), and the plants and animal life near a mill stream (85–6). Townley describes the features of a feather (86) and takes his pupils into the miller's garden where he describes the physical features and habits of several birds. The narrator notes that on concluding their tour, the party resolved to spend their leisure time contemplating natural phenomena illustrating 'God's goodness' (87).
Describes the provenance and physical features of the guinea pig. Notes its adaptability to the English climate and its breeding habits. Offers guidance on the most suitable diet and habitat for the animal.
Botany, Natural History, Education, Natural Theology, Design, Wonder, Medical Treatment
The introduction recounts that Mr Townley and his pupils visited Beech Grove, where the pupils gathered bouquets of botanical specimens. The same evening, Townley lectured on the specimens. In his lecture, Townley notes the abundance of foliage in the present month and explains how heat and light benefit plant growth. Notes that plants, unlike animals, do not have stomachs, powers of locomotion, or a full range of senses. (154–55) Admires and gives botanical descriptions of various plants, including the wild strawberry, forget-me-not, and rose-hip. Notes the etymology and medicinal uses of the dandelion, and insists that its downy globe is 'great proof of God's wisdom' (156). Compares and contrasts other botanical specimens.
Mr Townley describes the characteristics of, and provides anecdotes about, the scarlet pimpernel. Asserts that the 'informed student of Natural History' thinks 'nothing less than infinite wisdom' could have produced the arrangements of wild-flowers (187). Describes the Latin name, physical characteristics, and behaviour of several other wild flowers, including the early purple orchid and foxglove. Some descriptions are extended with anecdotes about the flower concerned. Townley hopes his pupils are induced to study botany and to 'bless God for his goodness' (190).
Uses Charles Knight's description of the skilled workmanship involved in pin-making to prove that the pin is 'not an insignificant article' and that the phrase 'it's not worth a pin' is meaningless (214).
Describes the character of Hubert Garnier, who devoted his life to the pursuit of 'alchymy' and astrology. His house contained an 'alchymist's crucible' and literature containing 'directions and calculations' for a 'fascinating but dangerous vision'. (231) Garnier worked hard to make gold in order to win fame, fortune and the hand of Agnes Grenfell. Describes the occasion when Garnier is most optimistic about his alchemical scheme. Agnes's father warns her that Garnier is too poor to be her husband and is prone to 'aimless speculation and baseless visions' (238).
The introduction dwells on the natural beauties of Green Park and recounts that Mr Townley gave a lecture to his pupils at the ruins of Melton. In the lecture, Townley stresses that falling and decaying leaves show the 'just and natural method'by which the benevolent God renovates nature, and that 'beauty is evolved from ruin' (282). The narrator describes the plants and animals observed among the ruins. Townley lectures on the flowers gathered by his pupils. He wants to show that each season brings its own beauty and proofs of God's design (283). Townley describes and relates historical information about various plants and flowers including the violet and St John's Wort (284). Discusses the opium drawn from, and the enchanting light emitted by, poppies. Concludes by hoping that his observations have revealed 'fresh charms and proofs of the Divine wisdom running through all creation' and have encouraged 'love and gratitude to Him' (285).
The introduction outlines Elisabeth Phelps's life, noting her early interest in mental philosophy and mathematics, and the steps by which she became a prominent literary figure. Phelps's story follows the fortunes of Dr Harris, a young physician, and his wife. Describes Dr Harris's attempts to attract patients to his new practice. He is disappointed when, as an expert at extracting teeth, he misses the chance to extract three teeth from people in his area (330). Describes his euphoria when he successfully treats his first patient. He fails to be the first physician at the scene of a carriage accident near his surgery.
Notes that the 'leading naturalists' of the seventeenth century worked hard to invent a local habitation for the 'Tree of Solomon'. Observes that 'chemistry and medicine, released from the tedious but not useless apprenticeship they had served to alchymy and empiricism, set up on their own account', and consequently lost their reputation as 'curative' enterprises (348). Notes that in 1768, the French hydrographer M. BarréBarré, M. (hydrographer)
ED1/2/11/2 CloseView the register entry >> discovered that the palms from which Palmiers received its name produce the prized 'cocos de mer' (349).
Medical Practitioners, Medical Treatment, Vaccination
Dr Harris reflects on his poor record of attracting patients, but considers that his time has not been entirely wasted because he has used it to study several medical works (364). He visits a boy suffering from a disease and laments the fact that he was prevented from having a vaccination (365). Harris consults with other physicians about giving the boy treatment and his judgement is supported. Following the boy's recovery, Harris's reputation and practice steadily grow (366).