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Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The surgeon’s prayer

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 07 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1392
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    W H Auden’s father, like Marcel Proust’s, was a professor of public health. Auden developed an abiding interest in medicine, and also in psychoanalysis, from reading in his father’s library. When Auden was 20 his father published an article on autoerotic strangulation. Proust’s father also published in the field of psychopathology.

    In 1935 Auden wrote a play, The Dog Beneath the Skin, in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood, in which appears a surgeon, remarkably like Sir Lancelot Spratt in the 1954 comedy film Doctor in the House and its sequels, called Sir William Spurgeon. It is not easy to summarise the plot, except to say that it is a satire on the state of Britain and, to a lesser extent, of …

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