Physician to the Regency

Georgette Heyer's Cotillion

I love these old covers. This one is from the 70s, I think.

“Ermine or chincilla with blue, Meg! Sables never show to advantage!”

By the time this point was fully argued, news was brought to Lady Legerwood that the doctor had arrived, whereupon, after hurriedly commending Kitty to her daughter’s care, she hurried away, bent on convincing the worthy physician that certain unfavorable symptoms, which had manifested themselves during the night, made it advisable for him to call in Sir Henry Halford, to prescribe for Edmund.

As the family doctor, a rising man, was at daggers-drawn with the eel-backed baronet, it did not seem probable that she would be seen again for some appreciable time.

——— Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer

Sir Henry Halford (1766 – 1844), was considered the foremost physician to the ton during the Regency.

He was born Henry Vaughan but changed his name by an Act of Parliament to Halford, anticipating a substantial inheritance from the original Halford family.

Sir Henry Halford (looking over the voucher list for Almack's, I'll warrant)

Sir Henry Halford (looking over the voucher list for Almack’s, I’ll warrant)

It was his connections and smooth manners that recommended him and not his skill as a practitioner. It didn’t hurt that he was also married to Elizabeth, the daughter of John St John, 12th Baron St John of Bletsoe. He managed to snag a position as doctor to the Royal Family and was on hand to take custody of the 4th vertebra of Charles I, which still bore marks of the ax.

Ms. Heyer knew her character well. Contemporaries called the good doctor that “eel-backed baronet in consequence of his deep and oft-repeated bows.”

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17 thoughts on “Physician to the Regency

  1. Yes, I love the old Heyer covers, too. I think the good doctor resembles an eel, even without the bows.
    I might add that Ms. Heyer knew her Regency history. I wish some current romance writers knew their history as well. A very interesting post.

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    • She did know her Regency history, even though I’ve noticed a few critics state otherwise. If you read periodicals and newsy letters from the period, you’ll know she used them for her dialogue. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I’m a sucker for these covers. Lovely. It suggests to my mind a story told, and painted in words that bring a time governed by manners and strict societal rules. The doctor fit right in. thank you for sharing the post. He’s a great hero for a book.

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    • yes–I couldn’t figure out that meaning for the longest time. Bowing and scraping certainly can give one the appearance of having a back as mobile as an eel’s, I suppose.

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  3. Of course I like the cover, too, because I am NOT a fan of bare-chested heroes on covers. What’s not to love about a man in a cravet?

    It is so tricky writing doctors in your Regency books because they did not refer to physicians as Dr. Last Name. Yet, for the modern readers, they expect doctors to be Dr. Last Name. I can tell you a lot of published authors just go ahead and refer to them as Dr. Last Name. Even though it’s incorrect.

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  4. Love the old covers, they’re like mini-paintings. Interesting article on Halford. As one commenter said, he looks like an eel even sitting straight in a portrait.

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  5. Great post! I must be the only person who has not read Georgette Heyer. I know it’s blasphemy, but I never did. I suppose I should take my Christmas break to remedy that situation.

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