Two Cultures Revisited: The Case of the Fin de Siècle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One of the myriad ways in which Roy Porter broadened our historical understanding of early modern Europe was by emphasizing how science, medicine, philosophy and the arts continually intersected. Porter showed that the leading figures in these cultural domains did not just engage one another personally; rather, they continually participated in a shared medico-literary milieu of ideas, theories, texts and images. Britain during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was exceptionally rich in these cross-fertilizations: Robert Burton, the Oxford divine, drew on a mass of scientific learning to produce his encyclopaedic Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621. John Locke, the pre-eminent psychologist, epistemologist and political philosopher of the late Stuart era, was schooled in medicine and associated with Sydenham. Bernard de Mandeville, physician, philosopher and social satirist, showcased a long fictional dialogue between a doctor, patient and family members in his Treatise on the Hypochondriack and Hysterick Diseases (1711). The Scottish novelist, playwright and historian Tobias Smollett doubled as a London surgeon. And the leading English literary intellectual of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, styled Dr Johnson, was so well versed in classical and modern medical texts that he contributed learned entries on the subject to his Dictionary of the English Language (1755). The entire eighteenth-century culture of sensibility was simultaneously literary, moral, psychological, theological and physiological.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMedicine, Madness and Social History
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Roy Porter
EditorsRoberta Bivins, John Pickstone
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-230-23535-9
ISBN (Print)9780230525498
StatePublished - Jun 15 2007


  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • early nineteenth century
  • creative writer
  • psychiatric case
  • Vienna Medical School

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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