The Ophthalmologist's Tale

Joseph Bell - Image from www.arthur-conan-doyle.com 

UK online journal Eye News has an excellent and well-researched feature on Doyle's medical career and his association with Joseph Bell in their November 2019 issue:

https://www.eyenews.uk.com/features/ophthalmology/post/steel-true-blade-straight-star-arthur-conan-doyle-joseph-bell-and-ophthalmology

Among the interesting facts is this piece on a Doyle notebook in the possession of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh:


There is something pleasingly analogous about Doyle’s handwritten draft of The American’s Story (as Doyle’s initial title had it) and his gradual conversion from man of medicine to man of words, in that the story is written in a medical notebook. Entitled ‘Notes on Medicine Session 1879-80. Compiled from the Clinical Class from the infirmary wards, and from epitomes of the Systematic class’, the notebook – acquired by the Library of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2004 – includes revision notes on the constitutional complications of gout, treatments of rheumatism, and clinical details of named patients and their symptoms. But it also has 30 pages dedicated to the aforementioned short story (about the death of Joe Hawkins in Montana (“Alabama Joe as he was called thereabouts. A regular out and outer he was, ‘bout the darndest skunk as ever man clapt eyes on”) and a humorous poem celebrating the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh itself, the second verse of which reads:
‘For there’s many a pickle in jar and in pot;
The Examining fogies there have got;
And they want you to know the devil knows what;
At the Royal College of Surgeons.’

Mark

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