© 2007

Consumption and Literature

The Making of the Romantic Disease

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Introduction

    1. Clark Lawlor
      Pages 1-11
  3. Renaissance

  4. Enlightenment

  5. Romantic and Victorian

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 109-109
    2. Clark Lawlor
      Pages 111-152
    3. Clark Lawlor
      Pages 186-190
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 191-243

About this book


This book seeks to explain how consumption - a horrible disease - came to be the glamorous and artistic Romantic malady. It tries to explain the disparity between literary myth and bodily reality, by examining literature and medicine from the Renaissance to the late Victorian period, covering a wide range of authors and characters.


enlightenment Renaissance Romanticism Tradition

About the authors

CLARK LAWLOR is Reader in English at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He has edited (with Akihito Suzuki) Sciences of Body and Mind in Literature and Science, 1660-1834 (Pickering and Chatto, 2003), and has written many scholarly articles on literature, science and medicine.

Bibliographic information


Shortlisted for the 2008 ESSE Book Award in the field of Literatures in the English Language.

'The scholarship displayed in this book - both literary and medical - is immense. Over the past decade there has been increasing interest in the relationship between literature and disease [and] Lawlor's book is a superb contribution to this field of study, as it extends the literary study of consumption back into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while significantly broadening this discussion beyond the major consumptive writers... to produce a veritable canon of consumptive writing. Lawlor's book is the best history of this literary disease that we have' - Professor Alan Bewell, Department of English, University of Toronto, Canada

'This book provides much more than the title promises. It explores interpretations of consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) from the Renaissance to the Victorian period...The result is a finely balanced exploration of historical and literary conceptions of consumption from the viewpoints of patients, physicians, and onlookers...Summing Up: Recommended.' - A. E. McKim, Choice

'Clark Lawlor's scholarly account of 'consumption narratives' is to be recommended as a well-informed and engaging contribution to the burgeoning field of interdisciplinary studies addressing the literary representation of disease...Lawlor's fascinating study provides new readings of canonical literary texts, as well as alerting us to lesser-known sources including medical texts, journals and private correspondence to provide a valuable account of the evolving aesthetics of consumption.' - David E. Shuttleton, Journal of Literature and Science

'By uncovering the link between sensitivity and genius, Lawlor aims to explain that association.'

Judith Hawley, Eighteenth-Century studies, Vol.42, No. 1, 2008

'This is a book, like the consumptives it describes, in which a slender frame belies vital force and purpose.' - James Whitehead, BARS Bulletin & Review