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.