Literary Essays - Hektoen International

Some Dickensian diagnoses

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. Charles Dickens Lithograph by Sol Eytinge,1867, from Dickens and His Illustrators. Internet Archive. Public domain. What a gain it would have been to physic if one so keen to observe and facile to describe had devoted his powers to the medical art. – British Medical Journal obituary, 1870 […]

The Joys of Motherhood: The classic Nigerian novel

Oyenike Ilaka Albany, New York   Cover of The Joys of Motherhood, published in London, UK, by Allison & Busby in 1979.2 The Joys of Motherhood is a Nigerian novel written by Buchi Emecheta in 1979. Emecheta was a Nigerian woman from the Igbo tribe. Born in 1944, she spent her childhood in Lagos. At […]

Wandering lonely as a cloud

Dean Gianakos Lynchburg, Virginia, US   Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash.  I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the […]

The ordeal of Evelyn Waugh

Stephen McWilliams Dublin, Ireland   Evelyn Waugh. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery. In Evelyn Waugh’s second-last novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957), the eponymous character experiences some singular and troubling symptoms. Mr. Pinfold is a successful writer, not unlike Waugh himself, who embarks on a sea voyage in an effort to cure the chronic […]

Dr. Mikhail Bulgakov and morphine

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Centers for Disease Control Public Health Image Library. Public domain. “During the years of war and revolution it was hard to find a hospital without morphine-addicted patients.”1 – Vladimir Gorovoy-Shaltan, physician specialist in addiction medicine   Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov (1891–1940) was a Russian physician, novelist, and playwright. He earned his […]

Middle Ages, Middlemarch, and the mid-twentieth century: Idealism at risk

William Marshall Tucson, AZ   From Stories of a Country Doctor (1891) by Willis P. King, p. 155. Philadelphia: Hummel and Parmele. Via Internet Archive. Public domain. The dissatisfaction with modern medicine felt by both patients and doctors occurs despite unprecedented advances and successes in disease treatment and prevention. Corporate Medicine (huge healthcare conglomerates that […]

Erik Waller the book collector

Anna Lantz Stockholm, Sweden   Figure 1. Erik Waller in his home. No date, unknown photographer. Uppsala University Library, Waller MS Waller 0004. Erik Waller (1875–1955) was a Swedish surgeon and book collector who spent most of his professional life in Lidköping, a small town in the southwest of Sweden. He received his medical education […]

Samuel Pepys: Stones and groans

  Samuel Pepys. Portrait by John Hayls, 1666. National Portrait Gallery, London. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. I polished up that handle so carefully That now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navy – HMS Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan   Introduction Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) did not polish doorknobs to rise in the world. He was […]

Jane Eyre and tuberculosis

Afsheen Zafar Rawalpindi, Pakistan   I had just put down my pen after the last patient left the room. She somehow reminded me of the Brontë sisters. She had been diagnosed with tuberculous axillary lymphadenitis after a biopsy but otherwise seemed to be in perfect health. Apparently she was not much disturbed by the diagnosis […]

Ben Hecht and the “Miracle of the Fifteen Murderers”

James L. Franklin Chicago, Illinois, United States   “Miracle of the Fifteen Murderers: The X Club holds a post-mortem“ by Ben Hecht. Collier’s Weekly, January 16, 1943, pp. 11–12, via The Unz Review. Fair use. The January 16, 1943 issue of Collier’s Weekly featured a short story by the famous and multifaceted author Ben Hecht […]