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Richard Oliver

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Published : 2 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
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Medical officer. The first "Treatment of the Insane" is recorded in the Office Book as "per CD". The initials "CD" are in alignment with the names in the author-column, indicating that the item was originally assigned to Dickens as author; then, before the initials, projecting into the number-column, is inserted the word "per". The article is, thus, unassigned in the Office Book. The second "Treatment of the Insane" is assigned to "Morley & Dr. Oliver". Payment for each item recorded as £2.12.6.


The British Medical Directory, 1853, and the London and Provincial Medical Directory, 1850 and later years, lists only one Oliver as connected with an institution for the insane: Richard Oliver, L.R.C.S. Edinburgh; L.R.C.P. London; resident medical officer and superintendent of Salop and Montgomery Counties Lunatic Asylum; contributor of the paper "On the Transfusion of Blood" to the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1840. This Oliver is probably the Dr. Oliver listed, with Morley, as author of the second item, and, consequently, the probable author also of the first. The first "Treatment of the Insane" quotes a letter on official business written to the steward of a county lunatic asylum and one written to the superintendent of a county lunatic asylum, and also the superintendent's observations on the case dealt with in the second letter—documents to which, presumably, only an officer of such an institution would have access.

The first "Treatment of the Insane" is the subject of Dickens's letter, August 9 1851, to John Hills. Hills had submitted the paper to Dickens on behalf of the writer (not named in the letter). Dickens found it—"the paper on the Treatment of Lunatics"—"a little too dry and didactic" and also "a little too long". "Nor am I quite sure", he stated, "if it would be well to give such a Government as ours, a monopoly, in a question of such magnitude or that I could make that proposal mine. But [the paper] suggests, and very well puts, considerations of importance, and I am unwilling to reject it if the author will give me leave to take some editorial liberties with it.

As I think you told Miss Hogarth that he had some idea of making a pamphlet of the article, and as he might therefore object to it being altered, I shall not consider it as subject to my discretion unless you should be empowered to give me the assurance that it is so".

Obviously, permission for Dickens to take "some editorial liberties" was granted. The article appeared in H.W. the following month.

The second "Treatment of the Insane" is the subject of Dickens's letter, February 28 1852, to John Hills. Hills had submitted the paper to Dickens on behalf of the writer (not named in the letter). Dickens found it—"the paper on the treatment of the insane"—"too didactic", "far too long", and in several passages circumlocutory. However, he stated: "I should be happy to accept it and to reduce it without compromising any principle maintained in it, if I were sure of the author's sanction. But as I am not, and as I remember that he was not perfectly satisfied on a former occasion I prefer not to touch it, and to leave him to withdraw it intact if he should desire so to do".

The author decided, obviously, not to withdraw the paper. It appeared in H.W. a little more than three months after the date of Dickens's letter. Dickens may have made some revision in the paper; but whatever major revision was undertaken was the work of Morley, the medical man on the staff, whose name is listed jointly with Oliver's.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

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