Highlighting Jude Knight’s study of wheeled chairs, old and new.
We Regency history lovers know about the Bath chair, a wonderful device that allowed invalids to be propelled along the streets of Bath to take the waters. But wheeled chairs for invalids have a far longer history, and I am particularly fond of one particular story about the invention of a self-propelling chair.
John Joseph Merlin, a Belgian inventor and watchmaker (and, perhaps not incidentally the inventor of the in-line skate) created a successful chair that became the model for others. Keith Armstrong, in A very short history of the bicycle and wheelchair, says:
In the mid 1770’s he invented roller-skates and presented his new creation by arriving at a London party playing his violin whilst gliding around the room. Merlin received rapacious applause and an encore, the party-goers demanded that he repeated his act, during the second attempt, he quickly discovered that he didn’t known how to stop and he had a major accident. The next we read about him is of the invention of a new type of self-propelled wheelchair… His design was so successful that 120 years later, a London catalogue of medical equipment was able to boast nine different ‘Merlin’ wheelchairs available on their books. Merlin died in 1803.
As far as I can tell, the Merlin chair had small handles on its arms. But the name ‘Merlin chair’ was retained for later chairs where the occupant was able to turn the large rear wheels to get around, and – by the late 19th century – the smaller propelling wheel had arrived, to help people keep their hands clean.
Candle’s Christmas Chair
Can a viscount and a carriage maker’s daughter find love?
Randal Avery, known as Candle, comes to buy an invalid chair for his mother, and finds the woman who has been haunting his dreams for three years. He has until she finishes the chair for his mother to convince her to marry him. If he says it with flowers, will she understand?
Minerva Bradshaw, educated beyond her station, once dreamed of stepping into the fairy tale world of the ton, only to have her dreams crushed. Now the man she cannot forget is back, and he seems determined to raise those false hopes all over again. But she only has to resist until Christmas.
About Jude Knight
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.