Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Review: Doctor of Love

After I wrote about the ever-interesting Dr James Graham last month, I was kindly alerted to a copy of Lydia Syson's new book, Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed. I instantly dove into it, as there are many conflicting accounts of Graham's celestial bed, or even Graham himself. I was hooked at once but I must admit I was totally won over when Syson explained a contraption Benjamin Wilson designed with a Star Wars reference,
"Wilson disposed of this difficulty in just the way George Lucas did when filming the opening of Star Wars exactly two hundred years later, moving the camera rather than the spaceship…"

Yes, I know that is an extremely superficial reason to enjoy a book but I commend Syson for stepping out of the normal constraints to better explain something on the academic level. Of course that's not the only reason I enjoyed Doctor of Love! Syson has a talent for creating an atmosphere with her detailed descriptions. This skill turns out to be an essential aspect needed for successfully explaining to contemporary readers the ostentatious contraptions that Dr. Graham invented. His mix of theatrics and medicine are hard to conceive in our modern minds but are colorfully described so as you feel like you are indeed walking in his Adelphi temple among the sparking golden dragons to the soft sounds of a glass harmonica.

Because I usually get caught up in the frivolities of London ton life, it is rare for me to read up on the medicine (or lack thereof) of the times. This book is chuck-full of 18th century theories and developing theories on medicine and healing. Since Dr Graham advertised himself as an expert in sexual healing there, of course, is a abundance of interesting information of theories of procreation. For instance, some believed that both men and women had to orgasm and ejaculate in order to produce a child. I can only imagine those powdered wigs heatedly debating that topic!

One of the most utterly amusing things in the book is the documentation of Graham's self-promotion. Although Syson will give him credit where credit is due, you feel as if she is laughing with you on the bloated poems Graham would write and publish about himself and his love of using CAPITAL LETTERS to express his points (Anyone who has read James St James should appreciate that). But then again how could you not laugh at a quack's shameless self-promotion?

I recommend checking out this book which hits shelves 2 October. Not only do you learn about a central and essential celebrity figure in 1780's London but because of Graham's connections and travels you find yourself reading about a plethora of interesting facts. This includes, medical colleges; celebrity relations and, of course, scandals; and even some tidbits about life in the American Colonies right before the Revolution. It is apparent how much research went into this but the transitions take you from one topic to the next harmoniously that the research flows together nicely which makes for a book that is hard to put down.


  1. Okay, how did this book manage to get by me? Usually I'm the first person to spot crazy historical studies like this! Back to Amazon I go--

  2. LOL, well I don't feel quite so bad about missing it now, since it would seem the US branch of Amazon doesn't carry it! Only Amazon UK. Is that where you got your copy?

  3. I was actually lucky enough to get it from the publishers this time.
    However, I am a big fan of Amazon UK. In fact that reminds me that I have to get a copy of Mr Darcy's Diary from it soon.

  4. But why do you need to order Mr. Darcy's Diary from Amazon UK? You can get it from regular old Amazon, or Borders, or heck, I've even seen it at Target.

    I think I'll get my copy of Doctor from They have free world-wide shipping, and I always get my packages from them in less than a week.

    Back to Lady G. related topics--have you seen the variant cover for the Georgiana/Duchess reprint? The Canadian/UK editions have a great big closeup of Ms. Keira's head:

    I think I like the US version better...

  5. Hello,

    I thought you might be interested to know that my novel, 'The Temple of Hymen' (published by Penguin 1995) is based on my research into the life of Dr Graham. It's good to see the Doctor being talked about here.

  6. Mythoside- This is a different diary apparently, who knew Mr Darcy had so much to say. This one is by Maya Slater

    I didn't know the book depository did free shipping, thanks for the tip!
    As for the Canadian cover; I am not a fan of big Kiera heads but I like this version better. I really, really hate that awful graphic design of that poster, it bothers me a lot (lol, I'm such a complainer).

    Thanks for the tip! I will have to have to check out your book.