Bleeding, Leeches and Mesmerism

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Highlighting Historical Romance with Elaine Bach on Regency medical practice.

In The Perfect Partner which takes place in England in 1817, the protagonist, Lady Diana Ashton, is involved in a tragic carriage accident. Her earl brother, Colin, employs a barrage of doctors and nurses to care for her. Medicine at the time included things like “bleeding a patient to align the four humors found in his blood” or blistering patients with caustic ointments then snipping the blister to allow the fluids out. Blistering might be used for lung congestion, inflammation, malignant fevers, gout, or hysteria. Colin refuses these treatments on Diana, blaming bleeding for the death of their mother, who was bled after childbirth. Fully one third of all pregnant women died in childbirth at that time. But medicine was a rapidly evolving science with doctors and universities sharing knowledge gained in practice and research. In fact, the use of leeches and maggots, which died out for a time, has returned to modern medical practices. When Diana’s health does not improve, Colin’s best friend suggests contacting one of Franz Mesmer’s followers who lectured at the Royal Academy.  

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Photo by Elyce Feliz, on Flickr:

Mesmer believed the body contained a special magnetic fluid which could be manipulated with magnets. He thought his patients with “nervous complaints” were either deficient in this magnetic fluid or it was blocked in some way. At first, he would have the patient drink a powdered iron solution then affix a number of magnets to different places on the body to manipulate the flow. Later, he imagined his own body contained a superabundance of this magnetic fluid, and he could achieve the same success by passing his hands over the patient while sitting knee to knee in front of them and staring into their eyes.  

Followers of Mesmer took his ideas further. They preferred to call themselves “experimentalists” or “revisionists.” The Marquis of Puysegur, the Mayor of Soissons after the French Revolution took his castle and estate, was one of these. He was successful in using his own form of Mesmerism, which he called “artificial somnambulism,” to improve mood and relieve pain.

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Abbe Jose Custodio de Faria statue in Panjim. Photo by Joe Goa Uk, CC License:

A contemporary of the Marquis, Abbe Jose Custodio de Faria (1756-1819) met him and discussed his theories with him. He introduced Oriental Hypnosis to Paris, always with the understanding that it worked by the power of suggestion. He would induce what he called a “lucid sleep”, a state where a suggestion might be introduced to ease the pain. He had many documented miraculous successes. Some revisionists would use the eerie music of the glass armonica to soothe and calm a patient into the dream state. The plaque in front of his statue in Panjim, India calls Abbe Faria the “Father of Hypnotism.” James Braid is credited with formally discovering hypnosis and the power of suggestion in 1843. 

You can listen to a Glass Armonica played:

About the Book

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Impetuous Lady Diana Ashton faces her first London season with trepidation. She hopes to attract a worthy suitor to validate her desirability, but fears childbirth and the constraints of marriage. If she must marry, she would like a long engagement to a dedicated statesman. Then she can influence his work in Parliament to improve the social conditions of the poor. Diana determines to approach her dilemma like a soldier on campaign. She studies to achieve success.   Abducted as a child and raised with no schooling, Lord Eversley doubts his skill as a politician. Beset by fears related to childhood, he prefers painting portraits of street urchins. Diana inspires him to reexamine his obligations and face his fears.   When a carriage accident threatens to paralyze Diana forever, her future crumbles. She now discourages Eversley’s attentions, believing she will only ruin the prospects he deserves. Convinced she’ll never recover, Diana contemplates taking her own life. She schemes with her questionable night nurse to save up the opium pills she is given for pain. Can Diana surrender her plans and discover the life of freedom God created her for? 
Available as e-book or print book on Amazon at:


After the visit, as Jeremy and his daughter were boarding their carriage for the ride home, Colin took the MP’s elbow. He furtively handed him the crumpled message. “Hide this.”   Using his magician’s skill, Jeremy deftly palmed the paper and slid it into an inner coat pocket. He lifted a questioning brow at Colin.   “That was in my mail this morning, no address, no signature. Examine it on the ride home. See what you can determine about the handwriting or the full meaning of the message. I’ve shown it to no one. I don’t wish to alarm the family unnecessarily. Advise me at our next meeting. What do you make of it? What should I do about it? I have some ideas. You and I know the real circumstances of Diana’s birth. Eden once heard a rumor of it. I’ve never told Diana. I dread this threatening note refers to that situation. If it should get out, it could destroy her, thus the family. Should I warn Eden? Diana?” 

About the Author

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Elaine Lyons Bach taught English, Media, Drama, and Directing at an all-girl preparatory school in South Florida. Later, she taught Communications and Writing Lab at Broward Community College for five years. She also travelled extensively in the British Isles with her travel agent husband. She began researching the Regency era when the BBC brought out a six-hour production of Pride and Prejudice which her students adored. Part of her researching lead her to read some of the traditional Regencies of the time, and she was hooked on the witty repartee and sweet romances. She does enjoy happy endings. 

Visit her website at  to sign up for some very nice monthly door prizes, and look for her on Facebook where the door prizes and winners are announced:

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One thought on “Bleeding, Leeches and Mesmerism

  1. This is such an interesting article, Elaine! I want to share it on my Facebook page. I’m interested in reading your book after reading this excerpt. I knew a little about Mesmer, but not about these other gentlemen involved mesmerism later called hypnotism nor about the maggots ugh. You say they are bringing back that practice in medicine today?

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