by Lillian Csernica on April 18, 2018
I routinely refer to my hero as Doctor Harrington, but he is in fact a physician. In the medical hierarchy of Victorian England, this was an important distinction.
From The Steampunk Tribune:
Physicians had the most prestige in the 1800s. They were called physicians because they only administered drugs, or “physic”. They did not deal with external injuries or perform surgeries or set bones or do physical exams, other than the patient’s pulse and urine. They took detailed case histories and then wrote out a prescription to be filled by an apothecary…To practice as a physician in London, you had to be licensed by the Royal College of Physicians. If, in addition, you had gone to Oxford or Cambridge, you could become a Fellow of the College (F.R.C.P.) too, which meant a good deal more status, exemption from unpleasant things like jury duty, and the right to a say in the internal governance of the college.
William Harrington has not yet been knighted by Queen Victoria, but spending three to five years serving the Crown in the Far East would certainly make him a strong candidate for such an honor. It would also qualify him for the Order of St. Michael and St. George, bestowed on civilians who have rendered extraordinary service to the Crown in a foreign country.
From Jane Austen’s World:
Doctors and physicians occupied the highest rung on the social ladder. Such citizens were considered gentleman because 1) their training did not include apprenticeship and 2) the profession excluded, supposedly, manual labor. Doctors were permitted to dine with the family during home visits, while other practitioners took dinner with the servants. A physician’s fee was wrapped and placed nearby, for theoretically gentleman did not accept money for their work.