Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:48 pm
Location: South Cambridgeshire, UK
Ernest Gray and the Knyveton Diaries
Has anyone been looking into the trilogy 'edited' by Ernest Gray: "The Diary of a Surgeon in the Year 1751-1752", (published 1937), "Surgeon's Mate" (published 1942), and "Man Midwife" (published 1946)? These three diaries purport to be the original memoirs of a John Knyveton, transcribed for publication by Gray. Knyveton was supposed to have served as a surgeon's mate, and later as surgeon, in various Royal Navy ships in the 1752-1762 period, including the "Seven Years War".
H.W. Richmond reviewed these 3 books in "The Mariner's Mirror" in 1947, and demolished their authenticity as far as the naval details were concerned: too many errors and impossible dates. In the 1990s Joan Druett was writing her "Rough Medicine: surgeons at sea in the age of sail" and she asked me to read the first one. She and I came to the conclusion that the 1751-52 diary must be fictitious, and in the bibliography to "Rough Medicine" she states that the 'diary' was based partly on the real memoirs of Dr Thomas Denman, who had served as surgeon in the RN and who later had a successful practice as an obstetrician in Georgian London. Very recently a retired surgeon, Mr Geoffrey Hooper, published a review in the BMJ (was British Medical Journal) pointing out that the surgical details were inconsistent with the dates, and that the diaries were fictional, written by Ernest Gray, who plagiarised 18th century publications and expanded them with much dramatic fiction.
All three "diaries" are still being issued by 'print-on-demand' publishers and are being marketed as though they are authentic 18th century naval and medical memoirs. Largely for this reason, Mr Hooper and I are planning to publish a very short review or article that will, once and for all, expose them as literary fictions - albeit a good read!
We are aware of some sources where others have exposed various parts of the 'diaries' as fictional. If any members of this Forum can pass us references or links to any critical reviews, we would be very grateful.