From a flea's teeshirtBMJ 1996; 313 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7072.1654 (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1654
Ruth Holland, our reviews editor, died in the Watford train crash in August. Readers may find it hard to appreciate the extent of her contribution to the journal as most of her efforts went on improving the work of others. In her tribute to her, Trisha Greenhalgh wrote: “As is the lot of the humble and skilful editor, much of her best prose was grafted on to otherwise mediocre articles and credited to other people.” And Tony Smith, another of her Soundings authors wrote: “She persuaded me that my submissions were really good when they were adequate and that they were adequate when they were below par. And then she improved them.”1
Yet Ruth also wrote wonderful pieces for the journal, which were all her own: book reviews mainly, but also forwards to collections of articles and even a 22 stanza poem commemorating the 50th anniversary of the BMA's centenary meeting in 1932.
Next year, we will publish a collection of her pieces written for the “BMJ” and elsewhere. Meanwhile, we reprint here some of the edited highlights. If there is a bias in this selection then it is towards passages where she was writing about writing; these found Ruth at her wittiest and most instructive.
It must be one of Nature's jokes that those most eager to talk about themselves are the ones with the least interesting things to tell. Nothing brings on the yawns more quickly than earnest self-revelation, and there's a lot of it about these days, when we're all being urged to dig into the unconscious, bare the soul and generally let it all hang out. Most people's souls, like their bodies, are best kept decently covered, and the managers interviewed here all come across as irredeemably dull dogs. I shouldn't care, either, to spend …