Life in the Sick-Room
  • Publication Date: March 17, 2003
  • ISBN: 9781551112657 / 1551112655
  • 260 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Life in the Sick-Room

  • Publication Date: March 17, 2003
  • ISBN: 9781551112657 / 1551112655
  • 260 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Believing herself to be suffering from an incurable condition, Harriet Martineau wrote Life in the Sick-Room in 1844. In this work, which is both memoir and treatise, Martineau seeks to educate the healthy and ill alike on the spiritual and psychological dimensions of chronic suffering. Covering such topics as “Sympathy to the Invalid,” “Temper,” and “Becoming Inured,” the work occupies a crucial place in the culture of invalidism that prospered in Victorian England.

This Broadview edition also includes medical documents pertaining to Martineau’s case; other writings on health by Martineau; excerpts from her other autobiographical writings; selected correspondence with Florence Nightingale; excerpts from contemporary works of sick-room literature; and reviews.


“This thoroughly absorbing edition contextualizes Martineau’s sick-room meditations within the extraordinary nineteenth-century culture of invalidism, and sheds light on a form of writing which, far from being morbidly self-obsessed, was intended to inspire and counsel its readers. Maria Frawley’s excellent introduction brings together, in revealing and suggestive ways, contemporary medical commentary, a range of therapeutic technologies, and personal accounts of suffering. The wealth of additional material—a characteristic feature of Broadview texts—makes this edition a valuable resource for students and scholars of Victorian literature and culture.” — Jane Wood, University of Leeds

“The explosion of interest in the cultural study of the body, illness, and gender makes the publication of Martineau’s work very timely. With its inclusion of contemporary reviews, correspondence, and related controversial writings, this edition is especially useful.” — M. Jeanne Peterson, Indiana University, Bloomington

Harriet Martineau: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

Life in the Sick-Room

Appendix A: Introduction to the American Edition of Life in the Sick-Room

Appendix B: Contemporary Reviews of Life in the Sick-Room

  1. The Christian Examiner (March 1845)
  2. The Dublin University Magazine (May 1844)
  3. Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine (January 1844)
  4. British and Foreign Medical Review (1844)

Appendix C: Harriet Martineau and the Medical Profession

  1. “Medical Report of The Case of Miss H— M——,” by T.M. Greenhow (1845)
  2. “Termination of the Case of Miss Harriet Martineau,” by Thomas M. Greenhow (1877)
  3. Selected Correspondence with Dr. Peter Mere Latham (1855)

Appendix D: Harriet Martineau and Autobiographical Writing

  1. From Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography (1879)
  2. From “An Autobiographic Memoir” (1879)

Appendix E: Harriet Martineau and Florence Nightingale

  1. Selected Correspondence (1860-67)
  2. From Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing (1860)
  3. From Quarterly Review (April 1860)

Appendix F: Harriet Martineau and Health Writing

  1. “Letter to the Deaf” (1834)
  2. From Letters on Mesmerism (1845)

Appendix G: Additional Examples of Sickroom Literature

  1. From Letters from a Sick Room (1845)
  2. From Devotions for the Sick Room (1843)
  3. From Occasional Poems: By an Invalid (1848)

Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Maria H. Frawley is an Associate Professor of English at George Washington University.