CONSIDERING how common illness is, how tremens-
dous the spiritual change that it brings, how aston-
ishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered 
countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts 
of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what 
precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little 
rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate 
oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go 
down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation 
close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves 
in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we 
have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist's 
arm chair and confuse his ‘Rinse the mouth—rinse the 
mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the 
floor of Heaven to welcome us—when we think of this
an infinitely more, as we are so frequently forced to 
think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not 
taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the 
prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have 
thought, would have been devoted to influenza; epic 
poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia, lyrics to tooth-
ache. But no; with a few exceptions—De Quincey 
attempted something of the sort in The Opium 
Eater; there must be a volume or two about disease 
scattered through the pages of Proust—literature does its 
best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that 
the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul
looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions 
such as desire and greed, is null, negligible and non-
existent. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All 
day, all night the body intervenes; blunts or sharpens,