Tuesday 18 May 1669

Up, and to St. James’s and other places, and then to the office, where all the morning. At noon home and dined in my wife’s chamber, she being much troubled with the tooth-ake, and I staid till a surgeon of hers come, one Leeson, who hath formerly drawn her mouth, and he advised her to draw it: so I to the Office, and by and by word is come that she hath drawn it, which pleased me, it being well done. So I home, to comfort her, and so back to the office till night, busy, and so home to supper and to bed.

14 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

How would Leeson help extraction patients with pain?!

Australian Susan  •  Link

This link gives some information about 17th c denistry, but nothing about pain relief.


nor does the wikipedia article. Into the 20th c, cocaine was used for dental pain up until WWII, according to one site I read. I am not sure if coca was one of the plants brought back from the New World to the Old. There is a description in one of Jane Austen's letters to her sister of Aunt Jane accompanying nieces to the dentist and one of them had a tooth extracted with no relief. Jane records listening to "the two sharp screams" from the waiting room. So, probably nothing available except alcohol to Bess.

jeannine  •  Link

“she being much troubled with the tooth-ake, and I staid till a surgeon of hers come, one Leeson, who hath formerly drawn her mouth, and he advised her to draw…”
having just seen the play “Little Shop of Horrors” I could not help but thinking of their ‘Dentist” song—a great career for a sadist. Poor Elizabeth!


Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Having just had a tooth extracted yesterday, I find myself in a considerable amount of sympathy with Beth. It must have been dreadful in the days when there was no pain relief.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Now Mrs. P, there we are, all tied down and secure. Now...All it takes is one quick yank and if I'm very good, you'll pass out while I tug the bits of broken root out."


"But first...I should like to know and your husband enroute running to his office assured me you'd know..."

Hmmn?...Sam'l said I'd what?

"Is it safe?"

"Tis a far, far better thing she does...Than she has ever done before..." Sam, sighing, peering out office window...Piercing screams in the distance.

Pauline  •  Link

Sam's stone was removed without anesthetic or alcohol, but with sponges and blood staunching powders. He was elaborately tied down and held down. Elizabeth may, however, have been allowed alcohol for this "drawing."

Mary  •  Link


Follow the link below to see the kinds of forceps and keys that the surgeon might have employed. The tooth-keys in particular exerted a long, slow pull on the targeted tooth, rather than an abrupt yank.


Robin Peters  •  Link

Nothing to it. Just tie a length of string round the tooth with the other end tied to the door knob. Slam the door ------- and off comes the door knob.

arby  •  Link

I would have guessed that it was an abscess, and that is what was "drawn".

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Good point, Arby -- I was wondering the same thing. Seems to me there's some ambiguity here with the word "drawn."

I'm certainly happy to live in an era of modern and relatively pain-free dentistry!

Mary  •  Link

Where we would speak of extracting teeth or 'having teeth out' the 17th century would normally have spoken of having teeth drawn, meaning pulled [out].

We still use the expression "It's like drawing teeth" when we mean that extracting information/response or something similar from someone is proving extremely difficult or protracted.

john  •  Link

I can imagine the pain. (A former dentist botched some work; infection ensued. Rather than send me to a specialist, she decided to remove the tooth herself but failed to anaesthesize me properly. My wife said that she heard my groans from the waiting room.)

arby  •  Link

Thanks Mary, that's why I count on you folks. Gonna miss you all, rb

Ruben  •  Link

1) Let's say the tooth was probably sitting on an old abcess growing by the day. The pain was there before the treatment. Pulling slowly gives an oportunity to keep the roots attached to the tooth. After treatment, patient feels much better.
2) Most portraits have no smile or "Mona Lisa" kind of smile, not because she wanted "to tempt a lover" but because of some previous "dental work"...

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.