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Faria’s disease, a fictional character in search of a diagnosis
  1. T J Murray
  1. Professor Emeritus, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4H7, Canada;

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    Some years ago I wrote about the medical material in Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo and indicated that it was not only rich and varied but remarkably accurate for a non-physician writer.1, 2 For example, he described the locked-in syndrome in the character Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort 120 years before the seminal article by Plum and Posner in 1966. A list of some of the conditions, medications and procedures in the The Count of Monte Cristo is shown in the table.

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    Table Medical matters in The Count of Monte Cristo

    As a young aspiring writer, Dumas learned about medicine from a young medical graduate of the University of Paris, Dr A Thibauld, who taught him anatomy, physiology, toxicology and other medical facts in his rooms each evening. Dr Thibauld also took Dumas on hospital medical rounds to see patients suffering from various ailments. Dumas had a writer’s interest in observing cases as potential material, learning the details of conditions he could later use in his novels. As he said in his autobiography, he used the lessons from Dr Thibauld in his writings for the next 30 years.3

    Alexandre Dumas was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life and left a body of lasting literature that is probably greater than any other writer. He wrote over 600 books (no one is sure how many), and no one has read all of Dumas. He wrote constantly and often four or five books at a time, publishing a shelf of books …

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