Rarely have essays of such diverse character and origin been assembled between covers.
The book opens with a New Yorker article by Samuel Hopkins Adams on the black widow spider. (Her consort, we are told, seldom has the luck to become a black widower, owing to the female's "shrewish habit of eating him shortly after mating... putting him to the double purpose of bed and board.") This is followed by a 16th century physician's classical description of "sweating sickness," admirably rendered into modern English by the editor. There is reprinted a 1962 Journal communication on glue-sniffing, after which René and Jean Dubos discuss romantic 19th century views of tuberculosis ("Is it possible that genius is only scrofula?" asks Elizabeth Barrett Browning). And so the book proceeds: indisputable classics (Snow on cholera, Beaumont on digestion, Withering on foxglove) interspersed with engrossing but probably less enduring works (Montagu on yawning, Lindner on