TENEMENTS OF CLAY by Arnold -- Ed. Sorsby


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What a lovely idea -- a collection of medical opinions on the afflictions of such worthies as Noah (an albino, on the evidence of the apocryphal Book of Enoch), Napoleon (gastric ulcer succeeded by malignancy), Henry VIII (a walking pathology textbook -- syphilis was the least of it). Unfortunately, these essays represent an awful mishmash of methodology. Instead of finding or commissioning contemporary opinions based on congruous approaches, Sorsby has gone back to articles as remote as 1913, loosely strung together with editorial appraisals that don't really balance things out. Consequently some of the material is of no more than antiquarian interest (like a solemn discussion of Shakespeare's cephalic type and another which claims he had writer's cramp). Editorial lapses of emphasis abound: Macalpine and Hunter's famous study of George III's supposed porphyria is introduced with only the briefest mention that the leading British porphyria specialist doesn't think much of the diagnosis. And the assembled medical experts are often guilty of the most painful historical and literary naivete. A book to be sifted through with interest and several grains of salt.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners