Tag Archives: nursing

The Fever Draught: 1890s

Logsdail, William; Portrait of a Nurse; 1915 Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/portrait-of-a-nurse-43018

Logsdail, William; Portrait of a Nurse; 1915 Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/portrait-of-a-nurse-43018

Sister Clare, under which name Nurse Benson was known at the Grand Central Hospital, was young, good-looking and the daughter of an Army officer, who had lost his life in his country’s service. She was devoted to her profession and proficient in it, and nothing could show more clearly the value placed upon her than the fact that she was selected by the War Office out of many applicants to go down to the Gold Coast and take charge of the nursing of the soldiers then employed in one of the frequent small but deadly wars of Great Britain. The order came for her to be ready to join the transport at Portsmouth in forty-eight hours.

The news was a great blow to young Dr. Levinge, the resident assistant physician at the hospital. He felt he could not allow Miss Benson to leave England without having given and received a promise which should secure the happiness of their future.

The doctor had loved Clare for some months and although there existed, no doubt, a silent understanding between the two, neither had spoken openly, Levinge waiting till he should have bought a practice and be able to offer his wife a home. The approaching departure of Miss Benson altered circumstances, and the evening heard mutual declarations and saw the couple betrothed. All seemed to come natural, it was simply the telling over of an old tale, love had been doing its work for many months, the present outburst was the final touch to the long story.

“And now, my dearest, as you are about to visit a country of vast fever-swamps, I give you a remedy which never fails to cure. My friend Sunderland, who has spent many years in the region of Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast, has discovered it and he assures me that he has saved many a life of men already in the grip of death.” He brought out of his medicine chest (they were in his room now) a phial which he filled with a brown fluid possessing a most powerful pungent scent which immediately pervaded the room. “At the first indication of fever administer five drops on a piece of sugar and continue the doses every hour till the pulse has become normal.”

  • • • •

The story as it is given here was told me by the young physician to whom it happened, and who vouched for its truth.

Nurse Benson left on the appointed day. On her return from her work of mercy she would become Dr. Levinge’s wife. The latter embraced an opportunity offered near his native town to buy the practice of an old friend of his family who retired from active work, and took with the practice the old doctor’s house, furnished it afresh and prepared it for the reception of its new mistress.

Five months had passed since Miss Benson had left, and her last letters, full of hope and happiness, promised her speedy return.

One evening Dr. Levinge came home from a long tour of visits and sat down to write to his love when suddenly his attention was engaged by a strong pungent smell pervading his study. He  called his servant who assisted in making up the mixtures, but was surprised to find he could not perceive any odour. It was the pungent smell of his fever draught and the bottle must have been opened. The chest was brought, but no trace of an escape of the medicine could be found. The doctor could not get the scent out of his nose, to the astonishment of his man, who did not detect anything out of the common.

The clock struck ten. Levinge had finished his letter and retired, being tired and uneasy on account of the remarkable occurrence of the penetrating scent he alone could perceive. His night’s sleep was greatly disturbed and it was early in the morning, when he rose and again and again investigated fully every possibility of the strange delusion of the previous evening. In vain; he could not discover even a theory which would hold its ground.

  • • • • •

Two weeks after the above related incident the news arrived of the death of Sister Clare of fever on board H.M.S. Stork. Her illness had lasted only three days. The hour and day coincided exactly with that in which Dr. Levinge had the strange experience with the pungent smell of the fever-medicine. Some time afterwards he met the army-surgeon who had attended Miss Benson in her fatal illness and heard how she had called for Dr. Levinge shortly before she died and had asked fervently for the draught by which she had saved so many lives, but which, unfortunately, had been exhausted by the time when she herself was struck down by the terrible enemy.

The Occult Review November 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil longs to know if this was more than a tragic and touching story written for an avid audience of occult-tale-fanciers. There were seven Royal Navy ships called H.M. S. Stork, none of which seem to coincide exactly with the chronology of this tale. Of course, it would help to know which of the “small but deadly wars” this was; there was conflict in the Gold Coast from 1822-1900.

Fever nursing was a deadly speciality, corresponding to what to-day would be called “infectious disease.” Fever hospitals formed the bulk of nursing hospitals in England just before the Great War. One also wonders if the receipt for the potent fever draught is known. The pungent scent and the administration on a lump of sugar suggests that quinine is one ingredient. Oil of Eucalyptus was also administered for malarial fevers in this way. Many antiquated medicines are being returned to the formulary. Such a draught might prove useful in the many recent outbreaks of infectious diseases.

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The Jag Matron: 1906

The Inebriate. Too much Holiday cheer.

The Inebriate. Too much Holiday cheer.

Dedicated to those whose New Year’s excesses have made their heads ache.


Queerest Job in the World is that Held by Woman, Who is a “Jag Matron.”

[Minneapolis Cor. Philadelphia Record.]

H.C. Trevier, in his lifetime, frequently went home much the worse for liquor. As frequently Mrs. Trevier wept bitterly at the sorry condition of her husband, one night Trevier’s unusual mood caused him to threaten the lives of their two babies, when the mother urged him, for their sakes, to give up “the habit.” Instantly her motherly instinct prompted her to protect her children and told her how to do it. Frankly what happened was that Mrs. Trevier laid her husband completely out. When he regained consciousness the intoxicated man declared that he was sorry and that he would never drink another drop. But the next day a member of his union slapped him on the back jovially and said:

“Treve, I heard a good story about eye-openers last night. Come have one and I’ll tell it to you.”

Treve, having drunk one on the “brother,” insisted on the “brother” having one “on him.” The upshot was that Trevier didn’t go to work that day. And the next he found his discharge hanging on the peg beside the time clock. The shock of this threatened to result fatally, and to fortify himself the man went out and took a bracer.

Thereafter, for more than five years, Mrs. Trevier spent much of her time protecting her children and her home against the man who pitilessly took from her the wages she obtained from sewing taken in and spent them in a strenuous effort to maintain his steadily departing reputation as a “good fellow.” One night he fell onto a street car track. They carried his lifeless body to his widow’s poor home.

But in that bitter school of experience Mrs. Trevier learned a trade—perhaps it should be called a profession, now that she has developed it so well, and has made it so remunerative—that has enabled her to provide her home and her growing girls with every necessity and with all the luxuries desired.

“Jag Matron” is the title of profession which she was originated. She has become the most important and useful person in a local sanitorium. Her experiences are decidedly picturesque.

“I had a lot of experience, and when I took up the work it was with the feeling that I knew what I was about,” said Mrs. Trevier. “I think I can handle a ‘bad’ case better than man. The innate gallantry of men is never more in evidence than when they are under the influence of liquor, and it is by this trait, which is almost a weakness, that I am able to control the patients under my charge.

“My work is varied. At times I am busy at the sanitorium, acting as a sort of mother to the poor fellows who come all broken up from the unequal fight. At other times I am on the road escorting patients to the hospital. Between their desire to drink everything in the buffet, and to jump off the train and end their troubles, I have a lively time. But I manage to jolly them along somehow.

“Proposals of marriage are an everyday occurrence, and I always accept them and trust to luck that the man will not want to sue for a breach of promise when he sobers up.

“One man I had to dope. He came in early one morning with his arms full of champagne bottles and the hack driver followed him with two full cases of the stuff. He informed me that he was going to drink it all before he went to bed. I foolishly tried to hustle him off, and he knocked me into a corner where I lay unconscious for the better part of an hour. When I recovered he was asleep, but when I tried to move him, he insisted on drinking more. Turnabout’s fair play. I filled a glass for him and put knockout drops in it.

“This is queer business for a woman, I know; but I seem to have a special ability in this line and it pays better than anything else. I keep it up for the children’s sake. Of course, I have a pride in my work and regard my patients as a doctor would regard him.”

Mrs. Trevier’s children are in a private girls’ school. They do not like to have their mother doing what she does, and say that as soon as they finish their education they are going to make her stop it and live with them.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 17 February 1906: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must applaud the sturdy Mrs Trevier who, when (as the Americans say) Life handed her a lemon, made lemonade instead of going into a decline and dying of a galloping consumption after waiting in a snow-storm outside the saloon for her husband as ladies do in Temperance tracts.

Mrs Daffodil hopes that her readers’ New Years Eves were spent in a state of enjoyable equilibrium rather than immoderate inebriation. If one is going to frivol under the influence, it is always pleasant to be able to recollect the experience.

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.