A forgotten temper

In the May 11th BMJ (subscription required), an introduction to Dr. John Shebbeare:
It is the fate of most writers, including medical ones, to be forgotten soon after their death if not before. The laws of literary survival are no less ruthless or uncompromising than those of the survival of species. A million books must be written that a hundred may survive, at least for a short time.
Dr John Shebbeare was born in the same year, 1709, as Dr Johnson….His splenetic temper made him better suited to political pamphleteering than to the practice of his profession. He wrote a satirical novel against an act of parliament forbidding secret marriage without parental consent and which was meant to discourage fortune hunting suitors of rich brides and grooms. A Tory of Jacobite leanings, one of Shebbeare’s pamphlets got him into hot water; after trial for sedition he was put in the pillory at Charing Cross and then imprisoned for three years. His fellow medical author Tobias Smollett detested him and lampooned him in his novel, The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, as the character Ferret, a political agitator and quack doctor.

One thought on “A forgotten temper

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.