A Lady in the Smoke – Facts

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The events in the book are fictional as well as the places included. Yet, one of the events that Paul Wilcox mentions is the disaster at Staplehurst and Charles Dickens. The Staplehurst rail crash was a derailment at Staplehurst, Kent on 9 June 1865 at 3:13 pm. The South Eastern RailwayFolkestone to London boat train derailed while crossing a viaduct where a length of track had been removed during engineering works, killing ten passengers and injuring forty. Charles Dickens was travelling with Ellen Ternan and her mother on the train; they all survived the derailment. He tended the victims, some of whom died while he was with them. The experience affected Dickens greatly; he lost his voice for two weeks and afterwards was nervous when travelling by train, using alternative means when available. Dickens died five years to the day after the accident; his son said that he had never fully recovered.

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Paul mentions a condition called railway spine. Railway spine was a nineteenth-century diagnosis for the post-traumatic symptoms of passengers involved in railroad accidents.

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Paul Wilcox’s mentor is John Erichsen. Sir John Eric Erichsen, 1st Baronet (19 July 1818 – 23 September 1896) was a British surgeon. He was a recognized authority on concussion of the spine, and was often called to give evidence in court on apparent cases of railway spine.

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Paul Wilcox is a railway surgeon.  Railway surgery was the medical speciality devoted to caring for railway employees, and sometimes non-employee family members or injury victims.  A railway surgeon was a physician who practised railway surgery.  Railway surgeons provided a wide range of care including trauma care and occupational health services.  They worked out of their own offices or at hospitals and clinics the railroads established.

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Elizabeth checks Burke’s Peerage to find out who is who among the noblemen and women. Burke’s Peerage is foremost a genealogical publisher, which first published books authored and edited by John Burke in London in 1826, recording the genealogy and heraldry of the peerage, baronetage, knightage and landed gentry of the United Kingdom, the historical families of Ireland as well as those of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Imperial, royal and mediatised families of Europe and Latin America, the presidential and distinguished families of the United States, the ruling families of Africa and the Middle East and other prominent families worldwide. Burke’s Peerage has expanded to provide broader genealogical publications (including online) maintaining its premium brand name.

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