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Bungling doctor 'caused John Keats agony'

26th October 2009

Romantic poet John Keats suffered a lingering and painful death thanks to a bungling doctor, a new book claims.

Dr James Clark, who eventually became Queen Victoria's personal physician, originally diagnosed the writer with stress and a routine stomach ailment rather than tuberculosis.

Keats' treatment was delayed because of the doctor's error, causing him to suffer terrible pain and beg for laudanum, which contains opium and morphine, so he could end his own life.

Dr Clark exacerbated his mistake by prescribing the wrong treatment when he discovered the poet's true affliction, putting him on starvation rations and regularly drawing blood.

The claims are made in the biography Joseph Severn, A Life, which examines the life of Severn - an artist who cared for Keats in the months before his death.

'Dr Clark's preferred method of treatment made Keats' last weeks much more painful than they needed to be,' said Sue Brown, the author of the book.

Recently, Gary Dexter's Poisoned Pens revealed the 'literary invective' famous writers have poured on their counterparts. Lord Byron, for example, believed Keats should have been flayed alive for his 'drivelling idiotism'.

© W&G Foyle Ltd
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