Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 10 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2791
  1. Alexandra Pitman, academic clinical fellow ST4 in Psychiatry, Department of Mental Health Sciences, UCL Medical School
  1. a.pitman{at}

    In 1954 the novelist Evelyn Waugh disembarked from England on a cruise ship bound for Ceylon but after only a week jumped ship to continue by land and air. His reasons are revealed in this quasi-autobiographical novel in which Mr Pinfold, a corpulent middle aged English author of some renown, finds the longed-for tranquillity of a cruise shattered by the intrusion of an unseen cast of voices, musical bands, and a dog. Unable to distinguish these auditory hallucinations from reality he flees the ship, fearing for his life, and returns home to his long suffering wife.

    Alcoholic hallucinosis is a relatively rare complication of prolonged alcohol misuse in which auditory hallucinations, occasionally with visual components, start to occur during the tailing-off phase of …

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