Dtsch Med Wochenschr 2020; 145(25): 1833-1839
DOI: 10.1055/a-1232-4839

Weihnachten mit Charles Dickens

Der Literat als Krankenbeobachter und guter MoralistChristmas with Charles DickensThe Man of Letters as Syndrome-Spotter and Good Moralist
Klaus Lewandowski
Kurt W. Schmidt

Charles Dickens verwies in seinem Werk häufig auf die Verbindung von Krankheit, Armut und sozialem Elend und zeigte sich darin als großartiger Meister der Krankenbeobachtung. Er beschrieb mehr als 40 Syndrome, von denen manche späterhin nach Figuren und Titeln seiner literarischen Werke benannt wurden. Zugleich gibt es wohl keinen zweiten Autor, der die Kraft des Weihnachtsfestes derart gefühlvoll und eindrücklich dargestellt hat.


Charles Dickens, as a writer, was also a great master of patient observation. He described more than 40 syndromes, some of which were named after characters and titles of his literary works. Within these he often referred to the connection between illness, poverty and social misery. Some of his descriptions have withstood the litmus test of time and are still used in today’s medicine: Amongst these are the characters Frederick, Little Dorrit’s uncle, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, Fat Joe after whom the Pickwick-syndrome was named, Tiny Tim who is beaten with Pott’s disease, Ebenezer Scrooge, a victim of posttraumatic embitterment disorder, and Mr. Krook who dies from spontaneous human combustion. Charles Dickens loved animals, and he was a member and supporter of The Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals and actively engaged in public activities against vivisection. Furthermore he explicitly cared for children, and when his novel “Oliver Twist” appeared, the begging children received more alms, and the government improved the poor houses. Finally, there is probably no other author who has portrayed the power of Christmas so sensitively and impressively. Dickens hoped that in these days, just before the turn of the year, personal transformations would take place and redemption would be experienced as a result of new insights. For such transformations, he was convinced that man occasionally needs external stimuli.

Publication History

Article published online:
16 December 2020

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