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by Christopher Mudiappahpillai

here’s an excerpt from Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. i guarantee that it will be one of the funniest books you’ll ever read. also consider reading the sequel Three Men on the Bummel. finally, consider reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, which is inspired by Jerome’s book. all three come with my highest recommendations.

A Victim to One Hundred and Seven Fatal Maladies

from Chapter 1 of Three Men in a Boat

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without

being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt

with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with

all the sensations that I have ever felt.

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight

ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all

I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to

indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into –

some fearful, devastating scourge, I know – and, before I had glanced half down the list of

“premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned

over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid

fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned

up St. Vitus’s Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too, – began to get interested in

my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically – read up ague,

and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about

another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and,

so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications;

and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the

twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I

got housemaid’s knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping

feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and

I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee. Gout, in its most malignant

stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently

been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded

there was nothing else the matter with me.

I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view,

what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,”

if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and,

after that, take their diploma.

Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not

at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch

and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could

not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that

it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it.

I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round

each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my

tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with

the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more

certain than before that I had scarlet fever.

I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.