Manuscripts from the Diary of a Physician: Power, Ethics, and the Super-Doctor

  • Anna Gasperini
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter analyses two episodes from the relatively unknown Manuscripts from the Diary of a Physician series to address the deontological conflict at the heart of the Act—on the one side, the medical fraternity’s need for fresh bodies, and the pauper’s inferior position in society on the other. The chapter frames the narratives within the body traffic context and discourses about the medical fraternity and bodysnatchers circulated in popular culture and the press. This section also examines how the juxtaposition of doctors showing different degrees of work ethic in the narrative reveals the ethical conflict characterizing the Act. Finally, the chapter introduces the concept of the ‘medical gaze’ as a symbol of power, one of the core concepts of the book.

List of Works Cited

  1. Bates, A. W. ‘“Indecent and Demoralising Representations”: Public Anatomy Museums in Mid-Victorian England.’ Medical History 52, no. 1 (2008): 1–22.
  2. Brock, Helen. ‘Hunter, William (1718–1783).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed December 3, 2015.
  3. ‘Buried Alive.’ The Times. October 17, 1825, 3.Google Scholar
  4. Bynum, W. F. ‘Cooper, Sir Astley Paston, First Baronet (1768–1841).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed November 9, 2015.
  5. ‘Cholera at Liverpool.’ The Times. August 24, 1832, 3.Google Scholar
  6. ‘Desperate and Fatal Affray.’ The Times. August 21, 1832, 3.Google Scholar
  7. ‘Fatal Occurrence in St. Bride’s Churchyard—A Man Buried Alive.’ The Times. March 05, 1841, 6.Google Scholar
  8. Flanders, Judith. The Invention of Murder—How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime. London: Harper Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  9. Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic. London: Routledge, 2003.Google Scholar
  10. Gilbert, Pamela K. ‘Sensation Fiction and the Medical Context.’ In The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction, edited by Andrew Mangham, 182–95. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  11. Gruber, Jacob W. ‘Hunter, John (1728–1793).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed December 3, 2015.
  12. Hunter, William. Two Introductory Lessons Delivered by Dr. William Hunter to His Last Course of Anatomical Lectures, at His Theatre in Windmill Street. London: J. Johnson, 1784.Google Scholar
  13. Hurren, Elizabeth T. Dying for Victorian Medicine—English Anatomy and Its Trade in the Dead Poor, c. 1834–1929. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.Google Scholar
  14. Jordanova, Ludmilla. Sexual Visions—Images of Gender in Science and Medicine Between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries. 5th ed. Madison: University of Winsconsin Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  15. ‘“kirk” n.’ OED Online. Accessed September 14, 2015.
  16. ‘Last Week an Accident Occurred in Acton Churchyard …’ The Times. February 09, 1830, 3.Google Scholar
  17. Liston, Robert. Practical Surgery. Edited by George W. Norris. Philadelphia: Thomas Coperthwait, 1842.Google Scholar
  18. Press Association. ‘Royal College of Surgeons Rejects Call to Bury Skeleton of “Irish Giant”.’ The Guardian, 2011.
  19. ‘Report from the Select Committee for Anatomy.’ London, 1828.Google Scholar
  20. Richardson, Ruth. Death, Dissection and the Destitute. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  21. Rosner, Lisa. The Anatomy Murders. Philadelphia: Universty of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rymer, James Malcolm. Manuscripts from the Diary of a Physician 2 Vols. London: Lloyd, Edward, n.d.Google Scholar
  23. Senf, Carol A. The Vampire in 19th Century English Literature. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  24. ‘The Neighbourhood of Christ-Church, Blackfriars …’ The Times. July 28, 1809, 2.Google Scholar
  25. Twitchell, James B. The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature. Durham: Duke University Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  26. ‘Skeleton of Charles Byrne the Irish Giant Should Be Buried at Sea.’ The Telegraph, 2011.
  27. Warren, Samuel. Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician. Edinburgh: Blackwood, William, 1834.Google Scholar
  28. Wise, Sarah. The Italian Boy—Murder and Grave-Robbing in 1830s London. Pimlico 20. London: Jonathan Cape, 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Gasperini
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarPerugiaItaly

Personalised recommendations