Venereal disease

These cases have been selected and transcribed by Olivia Weisser. Her first book Ill Composed was published in 2015 and she is now working on a book on the history of venereal disease.

For definitions of lues venerea (venereal disease), morbus gallicus (French disease), gonorrhea and the running of the reins, see the glossary of terms here.

Case 11889

Ursula Thorpe of Stony Stratford, 32 years old, Keeper of the Bull. [Question asked by husband] Hipwell, uncle to Thorpe. Thursday 21 December 1598, 9.15 am. Sick ever since Michaelmas. Goes abroad. Sent [message] by [with] Mr Oliver Barker for his wife. Sister is her mother in friendship & kindred. Doubts whether she is bewitched & has a canker in her tongue & tent. She has an ill stomach and spits putrefied blood.
[In chart] Morbus gallicus per maritum [by way of her husband].
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Case 46866

Mr John Spencer of Offley. Monday 15 June 1618, 12.40 pm. For gonorrhea. Had purging pills for his head & rheume of his nose which brought a dandruff on his head. A great eater of hair. [Inserted between lines] Denot curam hanc esse difficilem [indicates this cure to be difficult]. Loath to take inward medicine for his flux least it should increase it.
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Case 18758

John Wilkingson of Olny, 28 years. Monday 5 January, 1601, 10.50am. A bachelor. Luem habet veneream [has venereal disease]. Concubuit cum uxore Woodmany of Olny unde usta uxor ussit maritum cocubuit [he lay with Woodmancy of Only’s wife, whence, burned, the wife burned her husband].
Vitiavit alterius coniugem [he violated another’s wife]. Had one of his stones cut off in a fight & fray. A filthy person. It is of Sun in Capricorn Moon separating from Mercury in Aquarius. Morbum gallicum habet [has the French disease]. Had a thrust with a rapier in his privy parts & cut the conduit of his bladder & voids blood like the bloody flux beneath. All his hair of his head is gone with the French disease. Pained in the head.
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Case 11651

Matthew Tedder of Newport 39 on the 22nd of March next following. Monday 28 August 1589, 9.49 am. Has had a Disease following him any time this twelve years. He has the running of the reins which weakens [continued next column] him so sore that he can scarce stand. His back exceeding ill. Much troubled with it for this half year.
[In chart] This man has the piles etc. with boils & itch. Pocks, piles, & running of the reins.
I gave him for the first time half an ounce of the electuary of roses. Therefore the second time half an ounce of hamech with 5 grains of stib, 5 of scammony. Then I willed to take for the third time of the syrup [of] roses endive succory [vio]let & fumitory each an ounce, of the waters of purslane plantain endive violets 3 ounces. [Under chart] Item: to make a plaster of crabs boiled & sodden to pap & when it was cold to lay it plasterwise to his back. Sometimes to wash it with rosewater & wine vinegar & deer’s dung fried & layed to plasterwise. [Added later: He is well mended & is well.]
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Case 11621

Agnes Miller, 45 years. Saturday 12 August, [1598], 8.34 am. Has had an old disease as she thinks of the wind colic ready to stop there [her] wind. Lies at her heart every day of the week. The running of the reins.
[Right of chart] Saturday 12 August, 8.34 am. For Agnes Miller who has been troubled with the running of her reins & so also her husband for the space of this 4 years & her mother with the wind colic. While she had her terms she was a sound woman but since never having them she has been much distempered with the running of the reins.
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Case 28690

William Stoe of the parish of Parsnam, 43 years. Thursday 18 April 1605, 9.25 am. Head feet & toes. Short-winded.
[In chart] Fears morbus gallicus.
Looks as if he had the jaundice. Faint at his stomach. Much grief from time to time. Had a wife long sick who died after much physic. Lost much cattle which died. Had the plague in his house. 2 child died. Himself had it with heavings under his throat with red spots in his hands & legs. Never well since.
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Case 29160

Robert Androwes of Patnam, 60 years. Tuesday 4 June, 1605, 1.30pm. A miller. Hurt by a millstone which fell down suddenly upon his chest hurt his back and ever since troubled with gonorrhea.
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Case 34228

Russell Mr Leas man, 34 years. Tuesday 18 October, 1608, 4.35 pm. Troubled with a great itching and pimples and spots and dry up suddenly. Troubled also with the gonorrhea of the reins.
[Treatment information.] Was let blood. A plate of lead. Venice turpentine. Acorn cups. Bole [arminiack].
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Case 23538

Mr Ketteridge of Newport. Monday 6 June 1614, 6.30 pm. For one troubled with the gonorrhea whose stones are exceeding hard for 3 weeks in great pain. This gonorrhea is stopped & since his both stones are grown very hard. 25 years at Clyfton Raynes.
[In chart] Morbus gallicus he did him[self] no good.
[Treatment information, includes a plate of lead.]
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Case 33670

Sir Henry Constable of Ethrop, 21 years. Saturday 2 July 1608, 4.50 pm. Retentio seminis et ad semen multipl. [retention of seed and build up of seed]. [Treatment information.]
[Continued below] Sir Henry Constable of Ethrop married a week.
[In chart] Profusion of seed.
He took it from lying with his wife. He excuses himself & took this [profusion of seed] as he says with leaping & straining. Now married about a week.
[Treatment information.]
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Case 32804

Mr Lea, Tuesday 16 February, 1608, 2.30pm. Sent for a lotion water for a friend of his that knows not of it. Morbus gallicus.
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Case 16542

Thomas Saxby of Hartwell, 20 years. Thusday 31 January, 1605. A pain in his back and bones.
Asks whether he suffers from morbus gallicus. His father brought his water together with his own and his wifes. He fears that he took the disease by one that breathed in his face about Michaelmas.
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Case 16561

Goodwife Tomson of Stonistratford, Saunsoms sister. Monday 4 March, 1605, 11.00 am. Sent for oil of Exeter or of swallows. Extreme ache which makes her cry that she is heard all over the street from morbus gallicus.
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Case 35646

Steaphen Beason of Lillingstone Dorrle, 30 years. Tuesday 9 May 1609, 8.30 am. Troubled with red pushes. [Continued in next column] Stephen Beason of Lillingstone Dorrle in presence 31 years Tuesday 8.30 am 1609. An habet morbus gallicus [whether he has the French disease].
[Treatment information.]
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Case 36293

Arthur Smith of Little Houghton, 37 years. Friday 28 July 1609, 7.00 am. A great pain in the left side of his head takes him ever after sleep. Has had it 10 weeks. Took pills which wrought not. Let blood in the liver vein of the right arm and advised to make an issue in his neck. Asks whether infected with morbus gallicus.
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Case 21979

William Kinge Mrs Staffords man 37 years. Friday 1 March, 1605, 9.40 am.
[In chart] Gonorrhea.
Often drunk. His urine scalds & burns & a pricking in his yard with a tingling by day letting out the seed. Running of the reins.
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Case 14392

Thursday 19 January [1604], 1.45 pm. A man of my Lord Spencers sent for a sprain taken by leaping over a hedge. By which sprain he has taken the gonorrhea.
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Case 12962

Richard Foster of Dunsainger, 48 years. Tueaday 8 January, 1600. It runs like a blood up into his joints into his arms & belly with a pricking & into his head & then his eyes run & in the reins of his back & out of his yard matter white runs. The running of the reins.
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Case 50337

Anne Warr of Stony Stratford, 46 years. Tuesday 29 February, 1620, 9.00 am. A weak pale water & windy. A weak stomach. Swelled in her face & head. If she sits up her feet swell also. Desires to drink. Eats nothing but broth & used to suck her water letting none of the substance to go down. Troubled also with the whites too much. Gonorrhea. Has them too much [courses].
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Case 29111

Anne Parks of Little Brickhill, 36 years. Saturday 25 May, 1605, 12.15 pm. She fears it is the morbus gallicus [French disease]. Let blood in hepatic [vein]. A diet drink. A great heat in her mouth throat & stomach. Her nose for many times has a flushing come into it. Her hands dry.
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