The Convenience of Coughing: 1813

Hacks Cough Drops

Hacks Cough Drops


[From the Sentimental Magazine.]


There are few disorders incident to the human frame, which people seem more desirous of curing than a cough. For their timidity, in this respect, I never could obtain a proper reason. Coughing is, unquestionably, in some cases, attended with a degree of pain; but, have we actually arrived at an age of light, and reason, and philosophy, and yet cannot endure a little pain? Admitting that the pain is on some occasions troublesome; or granting that it is, on those occasions, much greater than it has been represented; is there nothing to balance it? Is not the possession of a cough, and the liberty of using it when we please, an advantage of the first importance? It is, indeed, so valuable a substitute for speech, that I do not see how we can part with it, without suppressing those opinions, which we are not allowed to give in words.

The great utility of coughing appears principally in the senate, the pulpit, and at the bar. To begin with the senate. Suppose a member had made a speech so long as to become tiresome, and so dull as to create no interest, and that he still persists in wearing out the patience of his hearers, what are they to do? None of them dare to interrupt him in words; not even the Speaker of the house himself can request him to conclude before he pleases. What then is to be done? Why, sir, half a dozen, or a dozen of his brethren begin a coughing chorus, which they repeat until he is completely put to silence. And it very fortunately happens that this venerable assembly hold their sittings in winter, when coughs are more frequent than at any other season, and when, consequently, a member may provide himself with this method to reply, at a very easy rate.

In the church, coughing is of considerable service. If the rev. Mr. A___ , or the dean of B___ , or the bishop of C___, happen to say any thing which seems to allude to a person or persons present, they can immediately communicate their opinions to one another, by a gentle, tickling cough, ay, and understand each other through a whole dialogue, at the expense of the preacher, who thinks, poor man! that their lungs are touched; whereas it is only their consciences.

At the bar, during the harangue of some able and eloquent lawyer, I have often heard a clandestine cough between his opponent and the jury, which was translated into very plain English when they came to give their verdict. Winks and nods any person may detect, but the language of coughing is confined to your old practitioners.

In the private intercourses of life, the advantage of coughing have, I dare say, been experienced by most persons who will honour this letter with a perusal. At the tea-table, when characters come to be discussed, upon which occasion it may not be always safe to speak out, a cough supplies the want of words. Praise an absent character, and accompany your words with a proper intermixture of coughing, and the company will immediately understand that you mean the very reverse of what you say. In another case, when a person advances any thing to which you are not disposed to assent, but which, for certain reasons, you do not choose to contradict, a cough will explain your intention very fully. This is particularly useful when listening to what old aunts and uncles advance, from whom we have great expectations, and who, therefore, must not be thwarted. It will likewise often happen that we are tempted to laugh, and yet must suppress it: this is exceedingly painful, especially when we see another person in the same situation. The laugh begins involuntarily; but any expert person may soon change it into a fit of coughing; and when he is black in the face, who will dare to dispute the severity of the disease?

In playing at cards, I know, from experience, that coughing is much resorted to, although I can by no means defend any practice that is unfair. The Tabithas and Dorothys, however, do not scruple to inform each other of the state of their hands by means of a gentle coughing duet, intelligible only to themselves, I am convinced I have lost many a game because my opponents were not provided with pectoral lozenges, or sat with their back to the door, or slept with a window open, or some other cause; while I well know they would not have parted with their cough for five shillings per night.

I have thus, Sir, set down at random some of the advantages of coughing; and I hope that the ingenious gentleman who executes the medical department of your Magazine, will hereafter mention this disorder with a becoming tenderness, and not hint at a cure, which, I am persuaded, would be to all the personages above mentioned a very great misfortune.

I am, Sir, &c.


Sun [Dover, NH] 1 May 1813: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As we are in the midst of ‘flu and catarrah season, Mrs Daffodil appends a useful receipt for coughs, should you not be in the senate or the pulpit or at the bar or the card-table: all places which seem to be visited by the Spirit of Sulphur.

A Receipt for a Cough.—Take a glass of spring water and put into it a spoonful of the syrup of horehound, and mix with it nine or ten drops of the spirit of sulphur.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.


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