Cornhill Magazine,  10 (1864), 641–71.

Armadale Bk. 2  [2/20]

[W Wilkie Collins]


Novel, Serial


Mental Illness, Disease, Medical Practitioners, Colleges, Error

    Ozias Midwinter (née Allan Armadale) is found by some Somersetshire farm labourers in 'a disordered state of mind, which looked to their eyes like downright madness', and the 'doctor, on seeing him, [...] pronounced that he was suffering from fever on the brain, and that his removal to the nearest town at which a hospital or a workhouse infirmary could be found to receive him, would in all probability be fatal to his chances of recovery' (647). Ozias is left to recover at a local inn, where a letter is found on him which explains that after being employed as an usher at a school he 'had been turned adrift in the world, at the outset of his illness, from the fear that the fever might be infectious, and that the prosperity of the establishment might suffer accordingly' (648). Mrs. Armadale, however, considers that Ozias might be feigning his illness for a dishonest purpose, and the 'whole College of Physicians might have certified to the man's illness, and, in her present frame of mind, Mrs. Armadale would have disbelieved the College, one and all, from the president downwards' (651). Later, Mrs. Armadale suffers 'an alarming nervous attack'. The local surgeon does 'all that was needful' for her, and has 'no apprehension of any dangerous results'. (657) Her close friend Decimus Brock nevertheless attempts 'to induce her to see another medical man', suggesting that 'her own medical attendant' would be 'assisted by the best professional advice', and her son, the other Allan Armadale, 'telegraph[s] [...] to Bristol for medical help'. When the help arrives, Brock's 'worst fears' are realised, for the 'village surgeon had fatally misunderstood the case from the first, and the time was past now at which his errors of treatment might have been set right. The shock of the previous morning had completed the mischief. Mrs. Armadale's days were numbered'. (659)


Collins 1866

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