Medicine: Dickensian Diagnoses

Charles Dickens afflicted his characters with a bizarre variety of diseases. What is surprising, says London Neurologist Sir Russell Brain in last week's British Medi cal Journal, is that Dickens did so with impressive clinical accuracy.* When doctors were just beginning to evaluate physical symptoms and other authors were using vague terms like "brain fever," Dickens "looked on disease with the ob serving eye of the expert clinician ... so that he often gives us accounts that would do credit to the trained physician." Samples:

¶In Dombey and Son the Hon. Mrs. Skewton, mother of the second Mrs. Dombey, suffers from what...

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