By John Wiltshire
Samuel Johnson has develop into identified to posterity in capacities: via his personal works because the nice literary essayist of the eighteenth century, and during Boswell's lifestyles, as a man--notoriously a scientific sufferer with a string of actual and mental illnesses. John Wiltshire brings the 2 jointly during this unique research of Johnson the author as "doctor" and sufferer. the topic of recent clinical historians' case stories, Johnson additionally cultivated the acquaintance of medical professionals in his personal day, and used to be himself a "dabbler in physic." Dr. Wiltshire illuminates Johnson's lifestyles and paintings by means of environment them of their clinical context and likewise examines the significance of scientific topics in Johnson's personal writings. He discusses the numerous components of Johnson's paintings relating medical professionals, medication, hospitals and clinical experimentation, and analyzes the vital subject, working all through, of human suffering--in physique and mind--and its relief.
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Additional info for Samuel Johnson in the Medical World: The Doctor and the Patient
Hypochondria' has no exact equivalent in modern medicine but in the eighteenth century, and earlier, it was a generally recognised disease entity, a real and serious condition which originated in the upper abdomen and was due to slow, sluggishly moving or too 'heavy' or 'viscid' blood. Like many other eighteenth-century medical aetiologies, this combined a Galenic belief that the disorder was due to a defect in one of the body's 'humours' (a word which by this time was tending to mean simply fluids) and a post-Newtonian conviction that the nature of this defect must be a physical property of that fluid's movement or composition.
89 In his account Bliss insists that 'Each movement is the result of a voluntary capitulation to a demanding and relentless urge accompanied by an extraordinarily subtle sensation that provokes and fuels JOHNSON S MEDICAL HISTORY the urge', a conviction formed over many years of introspective attention to his symptoms: When attention is trained to be aware of the very first signs, one perceives a sensitive point, a trembling it seems, on the threshold; it slips out almost undetected and evolves quickly into action.
Shaw is reading back into Johnson's childhood what he has himself noticed about the adult: his informant about Johnson's childhood was Dr Swinfen's daughter so it would have been third-hand testimony anyway. One may doubt, too, whether 'rolling' (a term other observers such as Fanny Burney also used) whilst one reads concentratedly is correctly described as a movement disorder. After the 1729—31 crisis the term most frequently used by contemporary observers was 'convulsive'. Most if not all of Johnson's strange movements do seem to have originated at this period.