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Re: [mythsoc] George Sayer, RIP

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  • John D Rateliff
    From: Stolzi Others, I think, believe that Havard s own doctoring was part of the problem. Yes, that s Wilson s view: that Havard s
    Message 1 of 8 , Nov 4, 2005
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      From: Stolzi <Stolzi@...>

      "Others, I think, believe that Havard's own doctoring was part of the
      problem."

      Yes, that's Wilson's view: that Havard's ineptitude of having Lewis wear an old-fashioned catheter led to the poisoning of CSL's kidneys and weakening of his heart. Douglas Gresham also has a poor opinion of Havard. But then Gresham thinks Havard and Satan, not necessarily in that order, were responsible for his mother's death from cancer, so I don't take his view too seriously.

      Wilson I do take seriously, but this is one of those times that I think he lets himself get misled by preconceptions. He thinks it's outrageous that a world-famous author, one of the most famous men of his day, was being treated by a local M.D. rather than getting the best medical treatment available at the time. But that's projecting today's view back into the past; Lewis thought of himself as someone who had once briefly been famous, and while Oxford had affection for him as one of the local characters ("there goes C.S. Lewis. It must be Thursday") they didn't treat him with that kind of deference, and he would have been horrified if they did. I also think Wilson and Gresham are misled by one of Havard's nicknames, "U.Q" (Useless Quack), into thinking he wasn't a good doctor. They might as well conclude that the Inklings dubbed him "the Red Admiral" in recognition of his great naval strategic abilities or bloodthirstiness. The whole point of the nickname was how inappropriate it was; kind of like Tolkien's point in OFS about the Frog Prince.

      By contrast, I think the account of Lewis's ill health in his final years in Sayer's book v. well done: he was there at the time, and incorporates first-hand observation into his account. As Sayer tells it, Havard recommended surgery when Lewis started having prostate trouble, but CSL put it off. Havard seems to have proscribed the catheter as a stopgap measure, since otherwise Lewis could not have left the house. When CSL finally did agree to have the surgery, it was too late: the untreated prostate disease had caused uric poisoning, which led to partial kidney failure, which had in turn damaged his heart. His doctors told him to stop smoking, which he ignored, and put him on a low-protein diet, which he also seems to have largely ignored. He continued drinking large amounts of caffine and, I suspect, alcohol (though he seems to have tried to have cut down on the latter). Not an ideal patient, and it's sad but not surprising that he didn't get better.


      "One's friends aren't always the best (thinking here of how my in-laws
      finally quit going to their dentist even though they loved both him and his
      wife, but they couldn't take the unnecessary pain any more)."

      Perfectly true, but I have more confidence in the judgment of Tolkien, the Major, CSL, and Sayer on this point than in that of Gresham and Wilson. Don't forget that Havard was well-enough thought of that he was recalled from active duty during the war in order to do medical research at Oxford. Tolkien thought well enough of his abilities and judgment that he continued to consult him about Edith's health, even after Havard had retired and moved to the Isle of Wight.

      --JDR
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