Views & Reviews Medical classics

The Painted Veil

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 12 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:101
  1. Peter Cross, editor, BMJ Career Focus
  1. pcross{at}

    The British writer Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) began training to be a doctor at St Thomas's Hospital, London, but never completed his studies. Instead he was lured away from the profession by early literary success. His innate empathy and ability to get strangers to reveal intimate stories suggest that he had many qualities that would have made him a first class general practitioner or psychiatrist. As it was his training was not wasted as there are medical themes running through many of his stories. The Painted Veil is a fine example.

    The couple at the centre of this bleak tale are hopelessly incompatible. Walter Vane, an intense bacteriologist, falls helplessly in love with Kitty, an …

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