Friday. May. 7.th. 1840. Cool, blustering, with a storm approaching. Had a good nights rest. David [Julia’s younger brother]; came in after breakfast to enquire after my health. Bridget took down the curtains. Mother & C. came in spent the morning, Mrs Rhind called in. They all suspect me of being “enceinte”, a fact which I believe to be positively true; altho Garret is an unbeliever. thinks impossible the case. Still continues doctoring. Garret brought “six pills of Calomel* to take every other night, also a third bottle of bark. Think my self much easier; alas! what frail creatures we are! and how much time, and care is wasted on our perishing body at least half my existence is spent in this selfish way. Children all well. Had cake made to day. Bought a load of wood. molasses ginger,Cannot eat sweet things at tea time, disagree with me very much.
Calomel: is a drug based on mercury. It was used for as variety of physical and mental ailments, and was taken internally as a laxative and disinfectant, as well as a treatment for syphilis. It is highly toxic, and its toxicity is made worse because the mercury accumulates over time as a poison within the body. It was believed to be an effective purgative and helped release the ‘impurities’ from the sick patient. It also did irreversible damage (the loss of hair and teeth), and was the cause of many deaths. Some of its uses in history involve important historical figures. The physicians attending General Washington during his final hours gave the dying President calomel. Louisa May Alcott (the author of Little Women) suffered from the drug. -Taken from a banned drug website.
A wonderful 19th century poem written about the effects of Calomel written by Abraham DuBois Elting can be found on HRVH.