Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 07 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5949
  1. Jens Foell, National Institute for Health Research clinical lecturer, Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 2AB
  1. j.foell{at}

“I have had three births, one, natural, when I came into the world; one, supernatural, when I entered into the ministry; and now a preternatural birth, in returning to life, from this sickness . . . In this last birth, I myself am born a father, this child of mine, this book, comes into the world, from me, with me.” So wrote the 17th century poet John Donne in the prologue of his book in 1624. Donne is struck by a “malignant and pestilential sickness” that renders his physicians helpless; he senses their …

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