In Deformity: An Essay (1754), William Hay offers an autobiographical account of his life as a hunchbacked member of the House of Commons, followed by an appendix, titled “My Case,” which details an experimental health regimen he adopted to treat the more quotidian ailment of chronic bladder stones. In an apparent disjunction with the preceding philosophical essay, “My Case” brings deformity into a medicalized, rather than humanized, register, crediting Joanna Stephens's controversial domestic remedy—and Hay's subsequent adjustment of it—with allowing him to write the text. This article compares the reception history of Stephens's recipe and Deformity: An Essay, examining why Stephens attracted censure whereas Hay garnered approval for endorsing the same basic treatment. Focusing on both Stephens's and Hay's gender-fluid personae, I argue that Hay, unlike Stephens, was able to demonstrate an unusually nimble approach to the eighteenth century's emergent categories of gender, because his deformity, gender, and class helped, rather than hindered, such persona making.
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Research Article| April 01 2022
“My Case,” Her Cure: William Hay's Permissible Gender Fluidity and Mrs. Stephens's Controversy
Eighteenth-Century Life (2022) 46 (2): 1–29.
Lesley Thulin; “My Case,” Her Cure: William Hay's Permissible Gender Fluidity and Mrs. Stephens's Controversy. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 April 2022; 46 (2): 1–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-9664384
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