'Indigestion': 19th century punishment for a deadly sin
Gluttony, considered one of the seven deadly sins, was punishable by indigestion.
Source: Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
The over-consumption of food and alcohol were popular subjects for caricaturists in the early 1800s.
In ‘Indigestion’, published 12 December 1825, an unshaven man, wearing a nightgown and slippers, sits facing the viewer in a bedroom. Obviously in discomfort, he holds his stomach with his hand, while being tormented by demons. The blue devil and other imaginary figures persecuting the subject were a device used by artists, notably George Cruikshank, to highlight the patient’s condition.
‘Indigestion’ contains numerous references to over-indulgence during the festive period. Two tiny servants bring the patient more plates of food, while underneath the side table two watchmen arrest a drunk. Dinner invitations lay scattered the patient’s feet. On the side table is a plum pudding decorated with a sprig of holly. One demon tempts the patient with another slice of the pudding on a fork, while another pulls on a lever against his chest to ratchet up his heartburn and indigestion. Even the full moon seen through window disturbingly resembles a plum pudding.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20204075
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