Michael Brown
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Polite and ornamental knowledge
Medicine and the world of letters
in Performing medicine
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This chapter explores the place of polite and ornamental learning in the social self-fashioning of the late eighteenth-century medical gentleman. It presents three case studies of local practitioners whose interests and publications spanned the spectrum of polite learning from what might be called 'natural' forms of knowledge, including botany and agricultural improvement. The chapter begins with Alexander Hunter, whose botanical and agricultural publications shaped his identity as a patriotic Whig of refined sensibilities. It considers how medicine intersected with the cultural politics of place in the work of his friend and fellow physician, William White. Hunter is portrayed not as a working practitioner but as a refined gentleman of letters and leisure. The chapter concludes with the work of Charles and James Atkinson, exploring how comedic writing could present medical practitioners as men of wit and literary imagination, at ease with the droll discourse of men and manners.

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Performing medicine

Medical culture and identity in provincial England, c.1760–1850


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