The gallant invalid of the nineteenth-century stage was a consumptive young man, hopelessly in love with a woman he could not possess and forced to steel his ailing body for a battle against forces that threatened his sense of honour and virtue.
If the human experience of disease is founded as much in "cultural performance" as in pathological processes (Frankenberg 622), then a traumatic social reality compelled the performance of powerful narratives about the consumptive patient in the nineteenth century.
In this context, consumptive suffering became one means by which members of the rising middle classes could perform a quasi-aristocratic distinction (Porter 67).
Some years later, when the play's initial success had subsided, Auguste Bourjot asserted that its key legacy would be its evocation of "les enfants de l'epoque, maladifs et incomplets, tels que le poitrinaire Henri Muller" ("the children of our age, sickly and incomplete, like the consumptive Henri Muller"; 90).
Angele was followed by a string of plays in which a similarly pale and lovelorn young consumptive played a pivotal role.
Les Filles de Marbre marked the moment of the consumptive hero's full acceptance on English-speaking stages.
Derided by Lytton Bulwer as a sign of French decadence and emasculation, the consumptive hero, his torments, and the virtuoso acting they invited now sold The Marble Heart to an English-speaking audience.
As works like The Marble Heart moved across the Atlantic, the constructions of emotional, national, class, and gender identity that had shaped the consumptive heroes of Europe became available for the representation of North American cultural idols.
At this point in the narrative an intensified awareness of consumptive time is specified to the most recent trauma ('two months') and the duration of this rapid and alarming happening, losing 'in two hours [.
22] Much though Sterne might resist such prognoses through a 'True Shande-ism' that should 'open the heart and lungs', it is not difficult to see how his perception of narrative might be filtered through the ever-present threat of a consumptive terminus.
29] One indication of a patient's perspective on the advance of medical skill is given in Edward Baynard's admittedly entertaining account of a consumptive case:
Part of the black humour of the scene is that the consumptive person in the later stages of the disease was thought to be 'the very picture of death; and, in fact, his whole body looks like a moving skeleton, or a wandering spirit', as Dr Stephens put it (p.
32] This consumptive time is irregular, disorderly, without narrative structure.
36] Sir Thomas Browne's description of the 'soft death' of a consumptive in his 'Letter to a Friend' was similarly influential from its publication in 1690 right into the nineteenth century.
In the light of the tradition of the consumptive 'good death' one can view Tristram Shandy as an extended and ironic meditation on this ideal.