Useless and Pernicious Matter

Corpulence in Eighteenth-Century England
  • Lucia Dacome


Thomas Wood, a miller of Billericay, in Essex, was born of intemperate parents on 30 November 1719. As a child, he suffered from various disorders, but after he recovered from smallpox at the age of thirteen, he remained healthy until about the age of forty-four. During this period, he voraciously ingested fatty meats three times a day, consumed large quantities of butter and cheese, and drank strong ale.When about forty years old,Wood began to grow very fat but continued to be healthy and “digested his food without difficulty.” In his forty-fourth year, however, “he began to be disturbed in his sleep,” complained “of the heart-burn,” and was afflicted by “frequent sickness at his stomach, pains in his bowels, headache, and vertigo.” He became sometimes costive, but at other times went to “the opposite extreme,” was almost constantly thirsty, had a “great lowness of spirits,” and suffered from “violent rheumatism, and frequent attacks of the gout.” His illnesses also caused him two epileptic fits, and he recurrently experienced a sense of suffocation, especially after his meals.2


Eighteenth Century Philosophical Transaction Excessive Fatness Corpulent Body Consumer Society 
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© Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne 2005

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  • Lucia Dacome

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