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Views & Reviews Between the lines

That's life—and death

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 20 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:617
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

What fails to happen is sometimes as important as what does happen. This is most famously (and felicitously) expressed in Dr Conan Doyle's story Silver Blaze:

“Is there anything to which you would like to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Likewise, as every married couple knows, what is unsaid is often as important as what is said. And what historians omit from, or do not emphasise in, their accounts of the past tells us much about the mentality of their own times.

In the philosopher David Hume's The History of England from the Invasion of Julius …

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