Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Intoxication of one kind or another

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 08 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3188
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was familiar with dysentery, fever, and delirium. In his early years as a journalist in Lahore, he took a lot of opium to control his bowels; in his unfinished autobiography, Something of Myself, referring to that period of his life, he writes, “a man can work with a temperature of 104, even though next day he has to ask the office who wrote the article.” He sometimes wrote while delirious.

It is not surprising, then, that opium dreams, and illusions and hallucinations, are important in his first works of fiction—for example in The Phantom Rickshaw. The very first of his fictional works, written and published when he was only …

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