If Symptoms Persist

If Symptoms Persist
by Theodore Dalrymple
Published October 1994
Andre Deutsch Ltd.
ISBN-10: 023398898X
ISBN-13: 978-0233988986
View at Amazon
If Symptoms Still Persist
If Symptoms Still Persist
by Theodore Dalrymple
Published October 10, 1996
Andre Deutsch Ltd.
ISBN-10: 0233990127
ISBN-13: 978-0233990127
View at Amazon

These books are collections of the weekly “If Symptoms Persist” column which ran in the Spectator magazine beginning on May 19, 1990. This was the first time that Anthony Daniels had written under the nom de plume Theodore Dalrymple, which he chose in order to conceal his identity and that of his mostly lower-class patients in the hospital and prison in which he was working in Birmingham. While he doesn’t mention his patients by name in these essays, he does describe their situations and the conversations he has had with them, which he uses to illustrate the problems of the modern English welfare state and the violence, ignorance, irresponsibility and licentiousness it engenders in the English underclass. As such, they are forerunners of his City Journal essays, and their stories and tone are familiar to readers of “Life at the Bottom”. He also describes other incidents in the hospital, including his run-ins with the NHS bureaucracy.

These columns are shorter than any other essays he’s written (except for maybe his First Post columns), sometimes just a few short paragraphs. Although generally not as profound as his later, more celebrated essays for other publications (which are perhaps among the most profound essays written), they are normally quite light-hearted and humorous, with each column identifying some little nugget of timeless (and deviously cynical) wisdom. Gathered together in book form, they are both fun and illuminating and make for quick and light reading. The first book seems to contain more essays about the NHS bureaucracy than the second, which is mostly about his interactions with patients.

For Spectator readers, this column would have been the first time they encountered his use of vignettes involving his patients. He included them in portions of his second book, “Fool or Physician”, but few people have read that book (unfortunately for them), and it was under his real name. The columns ran at the same time as those under Anthony Daniels, and in some cases, the two articles appeared on the same pages, but no indication was given to readers that the two writers were one and the same. The column ran until May 25, 1996, when it was replaced by Dalrymple’s “Second Opinion” column.

The books are illustrated by Nick Newman, and his little one-panel comic strips express quite effectively the ideas that run through the book and are worthy of attention in their own right.

Leave a Reply

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