Views & Reviews Between the Lines

(Not such) good fortune

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c6798 (Published 01 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6798
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Towards the end of his Memoirs of His Life and Writings, published two years after his death, Edward Gibbon (1737-94) expatiates, sincerely, on his good fortune in a way that is surely most uncommon, especially now that once again there is a fashion for romantic agony as a sign of superior sensibility: “When I contemplate the common lot of mortality, I must acknowledge that I have drawn a high prize in the lottery of life.”

Even the fact that he had reached what would now be considered middle age was fortunate: “The general probability is about three to one that a new-born infant will not live to complete …

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