Every so often I drop into Oxfam or some other charity or thrift shop on the prowl for a typewriter. Anyone looking for a typewriter these days has to visit second-hand shops, because someone somewhere decided a decade or two ago that it wasn’t a good idea to be making new ones anymore. So much for supply and demand, there’s always someone somewhere looking for a typewriter – and quite often that trooper is me. As it turns out Oxfam on Francis Street – Dublin’s so-called Antiques Quarter – had just the thing. In fact there were two typewriters. One came in a stylish 1970s reinforced plastic case bigger than my study and was completely banjaxed, and the other was selling for forty-five euros. It goes without saying that I didn’t buy it, but I did find some wonderful advice:
I strongly recommend a nursing mother to attend to her household duties. She is never so happy, or so well, as when her mind is moderately occupied with something useful. She never looks so charming as when she is attending to her household duties.
Dr. Chavasse’s Advice to a Wife
You never hear or read advice like this anymore. Back in 1921, before my grandmother was born, this stuff was gold dust. G. T. Wrench M.D., the chap responsible for the seventeenth edition of Dr. Chavasse’s Advice to a Wife, was the assistant master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. This was a man who knew his onions, and women listened to him. It’s a changed world now. I remember when my dad brought home a top-of-the-range iron for my mum on their anniversary. I remember this mainly because of the war that broke out over it. Wasn’t my old man just following the doctor’s orders? He was giving his wife the means to get on with her household duties, and so recover some of that old timey happiness and charm. She wasn’t best pleased.
At a mere two euros for a ninety-four year old book of sound medical advice for the women it was a steal. Rather than a typewriter I left Oxfam with the ancient wisdom of doctors Chavasse and Wrench, and I couldn’t have done better than that. Don’t be surprised, as I become an expert in what is best for women, if there are a few more quotes from it here. It might just make the world a happier place.