Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Medical Classics

On Being Ill

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 23 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6633
  1. Barry Newport, part time sessional GP (former GP principal), Wokingham, Berkshire
  1. barry.newport{at}

In this essay Virginia Woolf examines the spiritual change that a minor feverish illness such as flu can bring, enhancing our perception of the world while normal society goes on without us. “Directly the bed is called for we cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright; we become deserters. Mrs Jones catches her train. Mr Smith mends his motor. Men thatch the roof, the dogs bark.” Meanwhile the recumbent can study nature, indifferent but comforting, finding new beauty in “the …

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