Are your humours out of balance? You could be cupped, or bled, or purged. You could consider emetics, or even dally with leeches. Or perhaps you could just read a book instead.
Myself, I always go for the book.
I don’t know when I realized that I self-medicate with books. Possibly when I wrote this post, or possibly this one.
Or possibly when I read one of the new editions of P.G. Wodehouse and noted that his works were described as “cheaper than Prozac, and 100 per cent more effective.”
Here are a few of my favourite prescriptions.
Feeling blue? In a brown study? Life just drab and grey? Take a course of P.G. Wodehouse. Read anything he wrote: a novel, a preface, even the account of his experiences being interned by the Nazis. Uniformly hilarious.
Overdoses can cause symptoms similar to intoxication; possible side effects include aching stomach muscles and snorted drinks.
Are you jaded by the harried complexities of urban life, the rush, the pollution, the noise? Try the old classic Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. Warning: may cause uncontrollable urge to move to Switzerland.
Plenty of housework to do, but don’t fancy drudging it? Monica Dickens’ autobiographical caper One Pair of Hands should get you in the mood – or, for a more fictional twist, try the exploits of Lucy Eyelesbarrow in Agatha Christie’s 4:50 from Paddington.
Most of Agatha Christie’s works are ideal for when you are in need of something warm and comforting to curl up in. They’re not mindless junk, but neither are there nasty surprises. (Not unless you read Endless Night.) Plenty of unexpected twists, though – I’ve read them over and over again and I still sometimes miss whodunnit.
Also excellent for the early stages of recuperation are Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver novels. There is no-one I would rather have in my sick-room than this quietly knitting, Tennyson-quoting gentlewoman detective, ahem, private enquiry agent.
Are you oppressed? By life, by work, by circumstance? If, like the man trapped by the date tree which grew under him as he slept, you are unable to alter circumstances to your will; adapt your will to circumstances instead: try being heroically or nobly oppressed, for variety.
Nicholas Nickleby (by Monica’s great-granddaddy Charles) would be delighted to be of assistance; or Part One of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women may serve the turn instead.
Like Hamlet, do you find life “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable”? Try Terry Pratchett for some “interesting times.”
Does time weigh heavily on your hands? Do the days bore you by their prosaic banality? The ideal solution is J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic, The Lord of the Rings – the ultimate reason to “not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel,” as Miss Prism warns her charge.
What home remedies do you have on your bookshelf? I’d love to hear!