Yes, yes, I know. Disease isn’t glamorous. You know that, and I know that. But tell that to the people in other centuries. Even though most diseases were regarded in history much the way they are today, some ailments had cachet.
So which ones could theoretically allow the sufferer to convalesce attractively in a day bed?
Gout. A very painful type of acute arthritis brought on by excess consumption of rich foods and alcohol. Gout was called “the disease of kings” because it was something only wealthy people had—they were the only ones who could afford such delicacies. If you had gout, you were obviously a privileged person. And thus, glamorous.
Consumption. This was what they used to call tuberculosis—a deadly and deeply unpleasant disease. But how many stories, paintings, and operas have there been in which our heroine died from consumption? Plenty. In fact, consumption was called “the romantic disease.” That’s massively glamorous.
Melancholy. Better known as depression. Theories on its causes ranged from demonic possession to an excess of what was called “black bile” (which was thought to be produced by the spleen). Starting in the 16th century, melancholy was actually seen as a desirable thing because it marked the sufferer as especially sensitive and thoughtful, and often, more creative. Very glamorous indeed.
The Vapors. Not technically a disease, more of a symptom. And curiously, the vapors were always suffered by women. Because, you know, the “fairer sex” was just more prone to dainty fits and fainting spells. Fever, fatigue, anxiety, and PMS, among other things, could all be ascribed to the vapors. The classic Victorian image of a woman with the vapors is one in which she’s swooning on a couch. How much more glamorous can you get?
On the flip side, men often used the vapors as a diagnosis for women who were headstrong, didn’t obey their husbands, or were somehow “too emotional.” Which is not just unglamorous, it’s also misogynist crap.