'The beautiful Lady Mary! How could she die? - and of consumption! But it is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease. How glorious! to depart in the hey-day of the young blood - the heart of all passion - the imagination all fire - amid the remembrances of happier days - in the fall of the year - and so be buried up forever in the gorgeous autumnal leaves!' (Poe). This fascinating book seeks to explain an important and unanswered question: how consumption - a horrible disease - came to be glamorous and artistic Romantic malady. It argues that literary works (cultural media) are not secondary in our perceptions of disease, but are among the primary determinants of physical experience. In order to explain the apparent disparity between literary myth and bodily reality, it examines literature and medicine from the renaissance to the later Victorian period, and covers a wide range of author and characters, major and minor, British and American (Shakespeare, Sterne, Mary Tighe, Keats, Amelia Opie: Clarissa, Little Eva).

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