A watercolour depicting a man recuperating in bed at a receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, having been resuscitated by W Hawes and J C Lettsom after nearly drowning. The Royal Humane Society was established in London in 1774. It was initially called the 'Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned'; its aims were to publish information to help people resuscitate others, and it paid for attempts to save lives (the Society paid more money if the attempt was successful). Many people could not swim at this time despite the fact that they worked and lived along London’s rivers and canals.
There was an annual procession of those ‘raised from the dead’ by the Society’s methods, which may well have included people who had intended suicide too. One such seems to have been Mary Shelley’s mother, the feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, who after leaping from Putney Bridge into the Thames in the depth of depression complained ‘I have only to lament, that, when the bitterness of death was past, I was inhumanly brought back to life and misery’.
- Full title:
- A man recuperating in bed at a receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, having been resuscitated after near drowning
- Robert Smirke
- © Wellcome Images
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- Creative Commons Attribution licence
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- Wellcome Images
- ICV No 17053
- Article by:
- Sharon Ruston
- The novel 1780–1832, Technology and science
Professor Sharon Ruston surveys the scientific background to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, considering contemporary investigations into resuscitation, galvanism and the possibility of states between life and death.