Medicine: Genius & Madness

Wordsworth contended that nobody should pry into the private lives of authors. "Our business," said he, "is with their books—to understand them." But topflight London Neurologist Walter Russell Brain is curious about the writers themselves. In the current Journal of the British Medical Association, Dr. Brain reports on some medico-literary autopsies which expose the mental instability of many a genius.

Some great writers, says Dr. Brain, were insane in the strict sense "that they would today have been regarded as certifiable." Others, although not certifiable, were manic-depressives, obsessionals, alcoholics or drug addicts. Among...

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