By William B. Ober
During this “cock to Aesculapius,” a distinguished pathologist indicates how basic clinical analyses may be utilized centuries later to reconstruct the scene and assign a extra possible reason behind incapacity or death. The ten essays chosen for this quantity variety from an research of Boswell’s repeated an infection with gonorrhea to a severe exam of Plato’s account of Socrates’ demise within the Phaedo, topics either historical and smooth. different essays comprise experiences of the diseases of 2 scientific doctors—William Carlos Williams and Chekhov—and the disabilities of Swinburne, Lawrence, Rochester, Shadwell, Keats, Collins, Cooper, and Smart. Documenting a wealth of actual and mental signs that undergo at once upon the writer’s work—“when there's a scientific question,” Dr. Ober writes, “consult a doctor”—Dr. Ober diagnoses Swinburne’s masochism and penchant for writing flagellatory verse and facetiae because the mixed result of anoxic mind harm at start, sexual impotence, and the publicity to flagellation at public college. D. H. Lawrence’s “dirty words,” he reveals, stemmed from Lawrence’s mental wishes. Lawrence wrote woman Chatterley’s Lover whereas tuberculosis used to be weakening him physically, and the combo of his repressed gay traits and sexual impotence distorted his view of sexual relatives. Rochester’s bisexuality and “double lifestyles” have been on the root of his adventure, celebrated in his poetry, of untimely ejaculation, Dr. Ober indicates. Dr. Ober additionally shatters legends through proving that Shadwell didn't die of self-administered laudanum and that Socrates’ loss of life was once no longer said properly by way of Plato. A pathologist via education and practice, extra in particular a histopathologist, Dr. Ober has spent such a lot of his lifestyles attempting to diagnose illnesses through searching through a microscope at items of tissue faraway from the human physique via biopsy, at surgical procedure or post-mortem. by means of using scientific analyses, and proof from different disciplines to boot, Dr. Ober scrutinizes chosen literary matters and brings to their mind-body difficulties new and sometimes superb interpretations.
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Extra info for Boswell's Clap and Other Essays: Medical Analyses of Literary Men's Afflictions
His eighth episode of urethritis is likewise only vaguely documented. Boswell seems to have become so accustomed to this disease that he scarcely bothers to comment on it by this stage of his career, a striking contrast to the detail in which he reports some of his earlier attacks. He was in Edinburgh for the winter session of the court; by December 1767 Mrs. Dodds was far advanced in her pregnancy, and he had recourse to prostitutes. A letter to Temple dated December 24 tells us that "Amidst all this love I have been as wild as ever.
Shortly after finding himself a mistress in the person of a Mrs. Dodds and setting her up in her own establishment, he recorded giving a supper party for "March 8: . . two or three of my acquaintances, having before I left Scotland laid a guinea that I should not catch the venereal disorder for three years. . We drank a great deal till I was so much intoxicated. . I went to a low house . . where I knew a common girl lodged, and like a brute as I was lay all night with her. . Next morning I was like a man ordered for ignominious execution.
H. Lawrence and Lady Chatterley with me and was helpful in sorting out fact from fiction in the Lawrence legend. I am indebted to Professor Emile Delavenay of the University of Nice for tracing the filiation of many of Lawrence's ideas from those developed by Edwin Carpenter. Professor Jacques Barzun of Columbia University gave me encouragement when I encountered difficulties, and I have tried to heed his cautions about historiography written from the point of view of a specialist. My friend of long standing, Professor Howard Nemerov of Washington University, Saint Louis, has been a never failing source of support and advice.