Lear’s Greek Fever

Many times throughout his journal, Lear mentions the onset of what he terms ‘Greek Fever’. He seems to have suffered from bouts of fever for many years. Writing to his sister Ann from Mount Athos in 1856, he gives an account of an attack he suffered while there:

“I forgot my own rules & maxims;  for I had got wet in that rain, & yet seeing the finest view of Karièss as I entered the town, I did not go on to change my dress – but stopped to draw over a damp ravine. I had hardly got into the house when my dearly beloved friend Mr. Fever gripped me – & in the most decided manner!!  The shaking fit only lasted an hour – & the hot fit attacked my head at once making me delirious directly – but not till I had taken a vast dose of physic. I have no fear of fever now as I can doctor it beautifully. Next morning, I swallowed quinine amaine – & soon grew better;  Giorgio bought a cock from an unwilling old monk who used the brute as a clock­, & made me broth – & by common care & lots of quinine I grew well in 3 days – but you may suppose I took good caution never to move in Karièss again without warm clothes.”  note 1 

From his use of quinine and his description of shaking fits, one might assume that Lear’s bouts of Greek Fever were in fact recurrent attacks of malaria. However, in the same letter he describes his ordeal when his companion Giorgio had earlier come down with the fever which he attributes to having been caught from monks – “60 or 80 of the monks here are always laid up with fever, & you may judge of my vexation therefore when I tell you that Georgio, on the next morning, told me he had it.”

Note 1: Letter extract from Stephen Duckworth’s Edward Lear and Mount Athos website https://edwardlearandmountathos.weebly.com/ann-lear.html  
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