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Orwell's Cough Diagnosing the Medical Maladies and Last Gasps of the Great Writers by John Ross

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

Biography / Autobiography   
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Sue Baker's view...

What literature would we now have if only writers such as Shakespeare, Yeats and the Brontes hadn’t pegged out early – or succumbed to disease. Reading some of the treatments on offer, pegging out early was probably the best course of action, not only was there painful, rudimentary treatments, the medicines on offer – mercury – for one was highly toxic. A select 10 (or 12, if you count all the Bronte sisters) literary geniuses come under John Ross’s pen, wielded with great sympathy and enlightenment into past medical traumas.

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Who is Sue Baker


Orwell's Cough Diagnosing the Medical Maladies and Last Gasps of the Great Writers by John Ross

Did Shakespeare's doctors addle his brain with mercury, leading to his early retirement? Was Jane Eyre inspired by the plagued school that claimed the Bronte clan? Did writing 1984 kill George Orwell? Many of our most beloved scribes struggled to conquer not just writer's block but a bevy of medical maladies. John Ross opens his surgery to consult with the likes of Milton, Swift, Melville, and Joyce, to debunk myths and probe muses, both literary and medical. Ross peppers his tales with vivid vignettes of medical practice through the centuries, from Shakespeare'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 view of the writer's life - the perfect gift for the doctor, aspiring novelist, or literary addict in your life.

About the Author

John Ross

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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Book Info

Publication date

4th October 2012


John Ross

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Oneworld Publications




Biography / Autobiography



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