Views & Reviews Between the Lines

A forgotten temper

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 11 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2883
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

It is the fate of most writers, including medical ones, to be forgotten soon after their death if not before. The laws of literary survival are no less ruthless or uncompromising than those of the survival of species. A million books must be written that a hundred may survive, at least for a short time.

Dr John Shebbeare was born in the same year, 1709, as Dr Johnson. He was apprenticed to a surgeon in Exeter, where his own practice did not subsequently flourish, possibly because of his bad temper. He published medical books such as A New Analysis of the Bristol Waters; together with the Cause of Diabetes and Hectic, and their Cure, …

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