Views & Reviews Between the Lines

A real or imagined ailment?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1269 (Published 28 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1269
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) wrote two versions of one of his best known stories, Le Horla. In the first version, published in 1886, Dr Marrande, “the greatest and most famous alienist,” invites three of his medical colleagues and four non-medical scientists to listen to one of his patients in his asylum, “the most bizarre and disturbing case that I have ever known.”

It seems to us odd that the doctor should have arranged the evening, and invited laymen, almost as if to an entertainment. But Maupassant himself had attended the lectures and demonstrations of Charcot at La Salpêtrière, complete with clinical demonstrations of patients. Clearly the division between the medical and …

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