Views & Reviews Medical Classic

On the Death of Dr Robert Levet

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 08 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1847
  1. Clifford Packer, physican, internal medicine
  1. 1Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  1. packadoo39{at}

    One of Samuel Johnson’s greatest poems was an elegy for a physician and friend who for many decades cared for the London poor with grace and simplicity. Robert Levet was, according to Johnson’s biographer James Boswell, “an obscure practitioner of physic amongst the lower people” who collected minimal fees but had such an extensive practice that he walked daily on his rounds “from Houndsditch to Marylebone.”

    Johnson had a passionate sympathy for the poor, and called the silent and tireless Levet “a very useful and very blameless man.” When Levet died, Johnson was moved to write a poem that the critic W Jackson Bate has praised for its “deep, dignified, and accurate feeling directly engaged with real and daily things.” …

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