Orwell's Cough: Diagnosing the Medical Maladies and Last Gasps of the Great Writers

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Oneworld Publications, Oct 4, 2012 - Literary Criticism - 288 pages

“The doctor suddenly appeared beside Will, startling him. Though he smiled reassuringly, the poet noticed that he kept a safe distance. In a soothing, urbane voice, he explained the treatment: stewed prunes to evacuate the bowels; succulent meats to ease digestion; cinnabar and the sweating tub… Desperate diseases called for desperate remedies.”

Did Will Shakespeare’s doctors addle his brain with cinnabar and mercury? Was Jane Eyre inspired by the plagued school that claimed the Brontė clan? Did writing 1984 kill George Orwell? Dr John Ross of Harvard Medical School opens his surgery to consult with the likes of Milton, Swift, Melville, Joyce, and Jack London, exploring the history of medicine as never before, from the Bard’s cloaked visits to Southwark to cure his unsavoury rashes to the arsenic-and-horse-serum jabs given for Yeats’s fevers. With novelistic flair and deep expertise, Ross reveals a wholly absorbing new view on the writer’s life.

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User Review  - GeoffSC - LibraryThing

An extremely interesting read. It gives snapshots of the writers lives, work and troubles, especially medical maladies. The remedies the doctors used in ancient times were eye opening. An enjoyable and easy read. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - aadyer - LibraryThing

An excellent little book with fascinating historical as well as medical connotations easy to read for the lay reader Read full review

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About the author (2012)

John Ross is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a hospitalist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. His original investigation of Shakespeare’s battles with syphilis drew international media attention, including coverage on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

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