The First Mrs Beesley


Pat Cook

At the risk of rekindling the fires under the whodunnit regarding the first Mrs. Lawrence Beesley, I have received information from the indefatigable Inger Sheil that Cecile (Cissy) Beesley died in 1906. She had been suffering from a respiratory ailment called Phthisis for approximately 3 years and this, coupled with cardiac failure, is listed as her cause of death. Their son, Alec, was three at the time of her passing away.

Thought I'd pass that along.

Best regards,
Fiona Nitschke

Fiona Nitschke

Thanks for that snippet, Cook.

I nearly asked you what 'Phthisis' was, but looked it up in my dictionary: tuberculosis of the lungs; wasting disease. (Just in case anyone else needed to know...)

Anyway, I'll also be looking it up in a proper medical dictionary (as opposed to an improper one) so will soon know more.

Thanks again,

Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

G'day, Cook and Fi -

Well, I do wonder if we should discard the murder theory entirely...perhaps Beesley had a friend who was experimenting in exotic poisons that induce specific symptoms, and Beesley was a very patient man? ;-)

More seriously, even handling dry documents from almost 100 years ago gives you a sense of how terribly sad these events were. I have Alec's birth certificate now (and will forward it on via snailmail next week, as email still isn't working although I did get your test message - will use the other address), and he was born in October 1903. As Cissy died in August of 1906 and the duration of the illness is given as 3 years, it is possible that she was already exhibiting symptoms in the latter stages of her pregnancy.

Thanks, Fi, for the run-down on Phthisis. Another researcher looked it up for me and came up with some similar definitions, although there was a slight variation. Was it a catch-all term that was basically tuberculosis or 'consumption'?

All the best,


Pat Cook

Dear Ing and Fi,

Now you see why I didn't post any more about the disease - I keep getting conflicting answers whenever I look it up, albeit a respiratory problem.

I tend to believe, as Inger said, this may have been posted as a sort of 'catchall' phrase, much as 'Consumption' was used in a scattershot fashion. (I wonder if 'Phthisis' in the English version of 'Consumption'?)

Again, Inger, you're a lifesaver.

Best regards

Susan Markowitz

Dear Group,
It must have been Ilya's delightful, witty posts (what a joy to see you settled in and having fun, OM!) -- when I saw this thread about poor Mrs. Beesley, instead of feeling sad for her, I couldn't help thinking of "Thyslvesther" (as in "Sylvester and Tweety", i.e., Loony Toons -- appropriate for us, eh?). In penance, I went to an online medical site to see if I could find it, only to find more humo(u)r, which I cannot resist sharing. The following is by one Maynard Good Stoddard, from STITCHES, The Journal of Medical Humour:
"I Chose Type 2: A Patient's Explanation Of The Diabetic Experience (STITCHES 77:53-55 1998. © 1998 Stitches Publishing Company)(reprinted in

"Recently I ran across an article (the newspaper was lying on the floor at the time) that has left me more confused than usual. Here I've been living smugly with diabetes for these past 10 years or
so -- you know how time flies when you're smug -- and now I read this article that headlines the
question, "Can You Avoid Diabetes?"

Avoid it! My reason for smugness all these years has been based on the statement of a famous
surgeon: "The best way to live a long and healthy life is to adopt a chronic disease and take care
of it."

Upon reading this bit of authentic wisdom, my first question was, of course, how does one go
about "adopting" a chronic disease? Question number two: if I should choose this route to
longevity, which of the chronic diseases would be best-suited to my lifestyle? I certainly didn't
want to take on anything that would interfere greatly with my current robust state of health.

Woolsorter's disease had possibilities, as it required nothing more than the inhaling of spores
from contaminated sheep's wool. But being the shy person I am, I was not about to go around
asking farmers if I could sniff their sheep.

And I might have given phthisis a shot, had it not been for the pronunciation problem. How many
of my close friends -- close as six feet, let's say -- would I have left after boasting of my chronic disease and spraying them with phthisis germs? Also, as you may have already surmised, I don't have a glut of close friends as it is..."

Regards to all -- Susan :)

P.S. As an aside, "" is a great medical-reference site, aimed primarily at medical professionals, but open to us "ordinary folk", as well.
Maureen Zottoli

Maureen Zottoli

Now Susan, I was just sick this past week and could have used this information to turn a relatively harmless bug into a chronic disease.

Where were you when I needed you?

Hmmmm...poison.....phthisis.... Were the Mr and Mrs happy campers at the point when she died or is there some reason to think that Mr Beesley would do such a thing. Didn;t I read somewhere that he was a Christian Scientist or am I thinking of someone else? If one wouldn;t resort to a doctor, why would one resort to poisons? Just curious. But I think that Inger's saying that we shouldn't close out poison just yet until all is investigated is wise.

Also, another resource could be that I think that there are people within the church who perform healings or something like that, could there be records maintained of this for her if they were in fact Christian Scientists? And if so would this be available through the church? Just a thought.
(Loved you sharing above Susan!

Pat Cook

Dear Suze and Mo,

First, thanks for that website, Suze - I will definitely look into that. (By the way, I'm STILL trying to remember Vincent Price in 'The Bat'. I remember him in 'The Raven' but 'The Bat' is a new one on me.)

Mo, regarding Christian Science practices, I'm frankly no authority on it at all - still learning about that along with Mr. Beesley. However, one point should be made here, regarding the demise of his first wife. This occurred before Lawrence became interested in C S. It does make one wonder, tho', if one event led to the other? Mayhaps I need to reread his other C S writings.

Best regards,