At the time of this writing, it is 150 years ago since Charles Dickens passed away on 9 June 1870. In the present memorial issue, attention is paid to several medical features of Dickens as he was fascinated by medicine and medical diseases, both in a literary and humanitarian way. These features are his fictional physicians, his real-life physicians, his fascination with eccentric medical approaches, his presumed cardiovascular disease, the potential cardiac disorders he described, and finally his impact on the medical literature since his death 150 years ago till present time. 

With respect to his fictional doctors, it was shown that Dickens’s attitude towards his doctors proved to be more benign than hitherto suggested by several scholars. Regarding the medical practices of the 19th century, Dickens followed, on one hand, the orthodox medical principles of his time, but, on the other hand, he cherished unorthodox ‘eccentric’ medical approaches. It was revealed that many of the 19th century medical practices are still applied in the present-day.

In Dickens’s real-life, 35 physicians were found to have played a certain role, of whom 15 physicians Dickens considered his true friends. The connections with his physicians were certainly not second to those with his artistic friends, but should be seen from a different perspective. On 9 June 1870, Dickens died of a  major stroke preceded by several minor strokes, very likely caused by a cardiac rhythm disturbance called atrial fibrillation. Finally, it was sought for cardiac diseases or diseases with cardiovascular complications in his novels. At the end of this investigational work, an extensive list is presented including the medical papers referring to Dickens in the period from 1870-2020,  clearly showing that Dickens is still very much alive in the realm of current medicine.

About the author. Ernst E. van der Wall (1947) is Professor Emeritus of Cardiology at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), The Netherlands. At the end of the 1970s, he became a member of the Haarlem Branch of the Dickens Fellowship. Following his retirement, he decided to focus his attention on the various medical aspects of Charles Dickens, in particular on the cardiovascular aspects. Professor van der Wall is married, has three sons, and lives in Amsterdam.

"Clearly, it is the definite study of this important and fascinating subject!"

-Prof. dr. Michael Slater, Dickens's main biographer

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"This book is unique in its kind. I am convinced that it will find its way, not only to Dickens's readers, but also to those interested in the history of medicine."

-Prof. dr. Jan Lokin, Past-President of the Dickens Fellowship



Ernst E. van der Wall

Haringvlietstraat 30, 1078KD, Amsterdam