In the society of Regency England, the ideal situation for a gentleman was to have no profession, to have an embarrassment of wealth, and to pursue activities such as hunting, gambling, boxing, horse races, and such things. There were more unsavory pursuits but those weren’t exactly relished by the ton.
The economy being such, and times being less kind to persons without adequate means of support, there was no shame in following some occupation that could be considered socially accepted. The church of course ranked pretty high, and the military, if one survived, could advance a man’s standing and wealth. And following the course of medical knowledge also could provide for a man.
A physician, a doctor, was the top of the ranks. A surgeon had to perform physical labor in cutting off apendages, so he was more equal to the higher servants, like housekeepers and governesses. And the apothecaries were equated with shop keepers, not really what was acceptable at all.
To become a doctor, or any of the ranks of medical practitioners, a man studied at Oxford, and listened to lectures on symptoms and cures for diseases and injuries. There was no need to actually meet the patients at this time. Once graduated and deemed knowledgeable, the doctor would figure out the best way to treat his patients on his own.
A doctor never presented a bill to his clients. Payment would be made by subtle means, between one man of business and another. The doctor would, however, accept a meal with the family of his patient.
One of the more notable doctors of the time is Caleb Hillier Parry. The eldest son of a minister, Parry drew early attention due to his intelligence and interest in the sciences. He settled in Bath, and garnered a reputation for insight into his clients issues and true concern for their recovery. He even treated a relative of Jane Austin’s during his career. If the name sounds familiar, he is the father of William Edward Parry, of arctic exploration fame.
In general, most doctors had a knowledge of health and well-being not much different from yours or mine. There were no medical boards to review practices and continuing education was left up to the inclination of the individual. One definitely would not want to be ill or injured in those days. Some medications were available, but their discovery and efficiency happened by accident and could be applied in many dosages.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.