Fumigation in action

Aphra Behn (att. to) and John Harvey (ed.), after Hippolytus de Vrye (pseud. of Hieronymus Sweerts)

The ten pleasures of marriage and the second part the confession of the married couple (1682)

London: John Harvey, 1933 (facsimile)

A great plume of smoke emerges from the patient’s skirt as a midwife administers the womb fumigation. Before them lies a basket of plant cuttings (perhaps sage and camomile), and pots of ingredients for burning. Meanwhile, a physician inspects a vessel containing the patient’s urine.

This woman is receiving a fumigation to help her conceive. Surprisingly, the front door is left wide open for the public to peer in. Although the practice deals with a very intimate part of the body, the woman’s skirt not only sealed in the fumes, but also discretely screened off the activity. Fumigation was therefore a less exposing remedy for women; especially when one such alternative was receiving leeches on the neck of the womb.

S727.d.93.26 (opp. p. 47)