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A Medical Companion to Dickens’s Fiction


Joanne Eysell

This companion offers for the first time a book-length review of medical practitioners and episodes in Dickens’s fiction. The novels and sketches are examined from a medical-historical viewpoint, revealing in several cases a topicality which has been obscured by time. The accuracy of Dickens’s descriptions is confirmed by comparison with medical texts published between the 1700s and the present. Examination of the reception of Dickens’s works by members of the medical profession brings fascinating insight into Dickens’s popularity among doctors, the degree to which his characters continue to «live», and the diversity of opinion with which they and their medical states are interpreted. The Public Health movement, arising in the Victorian Age, finds its way into Dickens’s fiction, and even more into his weekly journals. The folk remedies, movements outside the medical mainstream and superstitions found in Dickens’s works reflect not only his own convictions, but also the state of medicine in an age of flux. These aspects in the works of a nineteenth-century medical layman are made accessible and presented in a form readable for laymen and professionals alike.
Contents: Medical Personnel – The Pickwick Syndrome and Other Diseases – Epilepsy – Stroke – Tuberculosis – Smallpox – Public Health – Folk Medicine, Unorthodox Medicine and Superstitions – Spontaneous Human Combustion.