Saturday, October 07, 2006


Dept. of Helpful Advice

I've an article in this week's New Scientist about the archetypal book release nightmare:

By the time he arrived in London for medical treatment in 1725, George Cheyne was in a terrible state. Headaches racked his brain, and gout blistered his legs in sores until they appeared "burnt almost like the Skin of a roasted Pig", as he put it. Above all, there was his weight, which at times rocketed to 32 stone (203 kilograms). He was left tormented with depression - and no wonder. That he was a physician himself was bad enough, but added to that was the crowning indignity: at this very moment, Dr Cheyne was being touted from the bookstalls as the diet guru of the day.

Cheyne nonetheless remained the favored physician of literati like Alexander Pope and Samuel Richardson, to whom he offered the helpful advice that the plot of Pamela needed more house fires and broken bones. (This, I think, would be 18th century literature's equivalent to demanding "More cowbell.")

Another would-be Pamela co-writer, by the way, was my old favorite George Psalmanazar. But I'm afraid Richardson wasn't too impressed with his contribution.

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