Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Unsyphilised behaviour

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 18 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4496
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    It is said by his most important biographer that after he reached middle age Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the great Norwegian playwright, never read anything other than the Bible and newspapers. It did his plays no harm.

    He wrote Ghosts in 1881. The plot turns on what was then called hereditary syphilis. Oswald, son of Mrs Alving, returns from Paris, where he has lived for some years as an artist in Bohemian circles. He has been told by a great specialist there that he has that dread disease; and it emerges that he contracted it from his father, the now dead Captain Alving (who clearly died from neurosyphilitic dementia), who lived a secret dissipated life but was regarded …

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