Almost an article of faith among the laity until the beginning of this century was the belief that difficult teething could lead to ill health. The following quotation from Nathaniel Hawthorne's son's Hawthorne and His Wife1 points out his belief that his mother's invalidism up until she was married at age 31 was caused by difficult teething. It is of interest that Mrs Hawthorne's father, Dr Nathaniel Peabody, practiced dentistry in Salem and Boston, and also that she, like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, shed her invalidism shortly after her wedding day.

Sophia [Mrs Nathaniel Hawthorne] had been a very sick child on account of teething, and was made a life-long invalid by the heroic system of medicine which was then in vogue....She was incontinently dosed with drugs, from the harmful effects of which she never recovered, and which subjected her, among other things, to an acute nervous headache which lasted uninterruptedly from her twelfth to her thirty-first year, and of course, shortened her life by an unknown quantity [she lived to be 60 years old]...

The Boston physicians...tried their hands at curing her, and she went through courses of their poisons, each one bringing her to death's door, and leaving her less able to cope with the pain they did not reach. But the endurance of her physical constitution defied all the poisons of the materia medica—mercury, arsenic, opium, hyoscyamus, and all....In 1830 [she was then 19 years old]... she was living on hyoscyamus.

When Sophia Peabody became Sophia Hawthorne in 1842, she was, for the first time since infancy, in perfect health; nor did she ever afterwards relapse into her previous condition of invalidism.

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