Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The greatest torture

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 25 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1226
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    The illnesses of the great and good have always been of interest, not only to themselves, of course, but to subsequent medical people, who amuse themselves by speculating on their nature. The very impossibility of coming to definitive conclusions is part of the fun of this pastime.

    Oscar Wilde’s father, the surgeon William Wilde, later Sir William, published a book in 1849 about the last illness of Jonathan Swift, entitled The Closing Years of Dean Swift’s Life, a second edition of which was published the same year and dedicated to William Stokes, of Cheyne-Stokes breathing, Stokes-Adams attacks, and Stokes’ law.

    It seems clear that Swift suffered severely from Ménière’s disease for …

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