A Night In With the Girls
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
“There there, dear.” Up until now I thought that was the way to deal with women when they were upset. But Victorian physicians had a much different method for treating nervousness, insomnia, exhaustion, depression, cramps, and sexual frustration.
That’s what the movie of that same name – “Hysteria” – is about. It’s currently holding office hours at the Tropic Cinema.
In it, young Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) joins the practice of older Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), a physician who specializes in treating women for various forms of hysteria. . In those days the treatment consisted mainly of “genital manipulation.” That is, bringing them to orgasm.
Turns out, Dr. Granville is very good at these hand jobs. His clientele grows.
But how can he keep up? These treatments are very strenuous on his hand. Mrs. Palmer and her five daughters can’t keep up.
Fortunately, he knows a guy named Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett) who has invented a mechanical device, kind of an electrical fan, which might automate this procedure.
Yes, this is the story of the invention of the vibrator.
As a matter of record, Joseph Mortimer Granville filed the first patent for an electromechanical vibrator (described as “Granville's Hammer”) in about 1883. According to historians he used it for muscular disorders rather than as a treatment for hysteria. But let’s not quibble. No need to let dusty academicians get in the way of a good story.
Back to the film, when Dr. Granville is not petting the kitty he befriends Emily Dalrymple (Felicity Jones) and falls for her sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
A nice Victorian tale. A love story.
As a medical footnote, the American Psychiatric Association discontinued use of the term “hysteria” in 1952.