Derived from ethyl alcohol, ether was a sweet-smelling, colorless liquid that came into medical prominence in the nineteenth century. When vaporized and inhaled, it produced varying degrees of unconsciousness. First employed as a general anesthetic by American doctors in the 1840s, its popularity quickly spread to Victorian England. But ether wasn’t only used during surgeries. It was also used recreationally, as well as to address myriad calamities of life in ways that ranged from the mundane to the outright creepy.
The 1897 edition of A Manual of Medical Jurisprudence reports the case of a newlywed Victorian lady who went into hysterics whenever her husband tried to initiate sex. As a result, the consummation of their marriage was “long delayed.” According to the report:
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