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The Male Body in Medicine and Literature$
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Andrew Mangham and Daniel Lea

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940520

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786940520.001.0001

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Syphilis and Sociability

Syphilis and Sociability

The Impolite Bodies of Two Gentlemen, James Boswell (1740–1795) and Sylas Neville (1741–1840)

Chapter:
(p.177) Chapter Ten Syphilis and Sociability
Source:
The Male Body in Medicine and Literature
Author(s):

Leigh Wetherall-Dickson

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781786940520.003.0011

This essay considers the stain on one’s position within civil society represented by venereal disease. Drawing on the diaries of Boswell – for whom regular doses of syphilis seem to have been regarded as an amatory hazard – and Neville, the essay explores the increasing prominence and importance of the sphere of sociable intercourse in the eighteenth century, which necessitates, for Boswell at least, a clear division between his private selfhood and conduct and his public demeanour. In contrast, Neville’s episodes of the pox seem to have exacerbated his incipient paranoia and annoyance with a world around him that refuses to acknowledge his gentlemanly qualities. Both men’s reaction to their condition as related through their diaries reveals for Leigh Wetherall-Dickson a shifting notion of private identity formed in response to the relatively new phenomenon of sociable intercourse.

Keywords:   Venereal disease, Male body, Social history, Eighteenth Century Literature

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