Some years ago, I belonged to a History of Medicine online discussion group. Every few months, a query would arrive from a newbie asking what was the disease once known as the marthambles – and the questioner would immediately be outed as a Patrick O’Brian tragic, for it is one of many ailments successfully treated by Stephen Maturin in O’Brian’s highly popular Aubrey/Maturin novels, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic War. The problem is, marthambles doesn’t exist. Sometimes a historical novelist is allowed – whisper it quietly – to make things up! Continue reading
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