John Armstrong's The Art of Preserving Health : Eighteenth-Century Sensibility in Practice book cover
1st Edition

John Armstrong's The Art of Preserving Health
Eighteenth-Century Sensibility in Practice

ISBN 9780754663065
Published April 28, 2011 by Routledge
324 Pages

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Book Description

John Armstrong's 2000-line poem The Art of Preserving Health was among the most popular works of eighteenth-century literature and medicine. It was among the first to popularize Scottish medical ideas concerning emotional and anatomical sensibility to British readers, doing so through the then-fashionable georgic style. Within three years of its publication in 1744, it was in its third edition, and by 1795 it commanded fourteen editions printed in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Benjamin Franklin's shop in Philadelphia. Maintaining its place amongst more famous works of the Enlightenment, this poem was read well into the nineteenth century, remaining in print in English, French, and Italian. It remained a tribute to sustained interest in eighteenth-century sensibility, long after its medical advice had become obsolete and the nervous complaints it depicted became unfashionable. Adam Budd's critical edition includes a comprehensive biographical and textual introduction, and explanatory notes highlighting the contemporary significance of Armstrong's classical, medical, and social references. Included in his introduction are discussions of Armstrong's innovative medical training in charity hospitals and his close associations with the poet James Thomson and the bookseller Andrew Millar, evidence for the poem's wide appeal, and a compelling argument for the poem's anticipation of sensibility as a dominant literary mode. Budd also offers background on the 'new physiology' taught at Edinburgh, as well as an explanation for why a Scottish-trained physician newly arrived in London was forced to write poetry to supplement his medical income. This edition also includes annotated excerpts from the key literary and medical works of the period, including poetry, medical prose, and georgic theory. Readers will come away convinced of the poem's significance as a uniquely engaging perspective on the place of poetry, medicine, the body, and the book trade in the literary history of eighteenth-century sensibility.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; General introduction: sensibility in practice: Dr John Armstrong's The Art of Preserving Health; Part I The Critical Text: The Art of Preserving Health. Part II Contextual Documents: Poetry: The plague of Athens from the Latin of Lucretius, 1682, Thomas Creech; A nocturnal reverie, 1713, [Anne Finch];A hymn on solitude, 1748, James Thomson; 'Preface', Winter. A poem, 1726, James Thomson; Night the first, 1742, Edward Young; The pleasures of melancholy. A poem,1747, [Thomas Warton]. Theory of the Georgic: An essay on the Georgics, 1697, Joseph Addison; Virgil, The Georgicks, trans. 1741, John Martin; Of didactic or perceptive poetry, 1711, Joseph Trapp. Medical Documents: The plague at Marseilles consider'd, 1720, Richard Bradley; An essay of health and long life, 1724, George Cheyne; A letter to George Cheyne,1724, [Anonymous]; The ill state of physicke in Great Britain, 1727, [John Tristram]; 'Preface', A Full View of All the Diseases Incident to Children, 1742, John Armstrong; Tables; Bibliography; Index.

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Adam Budd lectures in Comparative Literature and directs the graduate courses in historical methods in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.


'In his learned book, Adam Budd leaves no stone unturned in his research on the general background in the history of medicine and culture and in his reading of the individual elements in John Armstrong's poem in relationship to Georgic antecedents.' Richard Greene, University of Toronto, Canada 'Adam Budd's new edition of The Art of Preserving Health explains the references to contemporary medical thinking, historical events, place names and classical mythology so that modern readers can make better sense of Armstrong's poem. The text is flanked by a substantial introduction, giving detailed information about eighteenth-century medical contexts, and a large selection of 'Contextual Documents', which range from poems on melancholy and solitude to essays on The Georgics to medical treatises. Everything in the volume is heavily glossed and annotated... [readers] will be grateful to the editor for his meticulous elucidation of a largely forgotten poem.' Times Literary Supplement 'Chronological tables of significant figures, events, and publications from 1659 to 1827, and of classical texts, followed by a bibliography of formidable proportions, complete a handsomely produced volume that can be recommended, as a valuable and welcome resource, to any scholar who is well versed in eighteenth-century literature in English... Personally, I intend to quarry it relentlessly for background material when teaching [...], that I shall consult it on eighteenth-century theories about sexuality and reproduction goes without saying: it tops the list of books I wish had been in print while I was researching my last project in that field.' British Society for Literature and Science 'Most valuable are Budd’s extensive footnotes explaining and commenting on the text and identifying allusions in and parallels for the text. The vocabulary is thoroughly glossed, allowing the poem to be understood by undergraduates and common readers. The commentary and the introductory essay are very we