Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a prolific Scottish poet and historical novelist who was one of the most popular romantic novelists of the nineteenth century. After studying law at Edinburgh University, Scott first started writing at the age of 25. Having made his name as a poet, he wrote the phenomenally successful novel Waverley in 1814 and was made a baronet in 1820. These volumes, first published in 1827, contain Scott's detailed biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Including a detailed review of the French Revolution, Scott focuses on Napoleon's legacy to France and his military genius, purposefully remaining non-partisan and discussing Napoleon's life and achievements without bias. The result of extensive research and correspondence with Napoleon's surviving colleagues, these volumes were extremely successful and remain valuable for the study of Napoleon's life and changing public reaction.
This volume which initially appeared in the Lancet, represents a final attempt to lay or exorcise the persistent pathologic ghost of Napoleon's last illness and death. It is based on a careful examination of the documents and a microscopic study of the specimens preserved from the autopsy. Of the authenticity of these specimens there seems to be still some slight doubt; but, accepting them as genuine, there seems good ground for accepting the author's conclusion that "the cause of Napoleon's death was cancer of the lesser curvature of the stomach developing on the site of an old gastric ulcer." There were also vesical calculi, and at the apex of the left lung some small healed foci of tuberculosis. On the basis of the clinical history, and considering the medical knowledge and diagnostic methods of the time, Chaplin attempts a defence of the physicians who have been so severely criticized for their treatment of the Emperor. An appendix contains the brief biographies of these four physicians; a second, the story of the specimens, which are preserved in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London; and a third an account of the exhumation of Napoleon on Oct. 16, 1840. There is a melancholy grandeur of interest associated with this final clinico-pathologic study of Napoleon's case, as with all that pertains to the history of the great Corsican.
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