Views & Reviews Past Caring

Dr Johnson’s “peculiar pleasure”

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 29 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3979
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

    In an age of heroic surgery, and even more heroic patients, the literary genius Samuel Johnson deserved a medal of the highest order for his stoicism in the face of suffering.

    His medical problems began at birth, exactly 300 years ago last month (18 September), when he barely survived a “very long and dangerous labour,” and ended 75 years later in an agonising death from heart failure, with almost continual episodes of ill health in between.

    Having contracted scrofula, or tuberculosis of the lymph nodes, as an infant, little Sam was taken by his mother to receive the royal touch from Queen Anne. The folk remedy was …

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