On Being Ill

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On Being Ill is an essay by Virginia Woolf that appeared in T. S. Eliot's The Criterion in January, 1926; The essay was later reprinted, with revisions, in Forum in April 1926, under the title Illness: An Unexploited Mine.

The essay seeks to establish illness as a serious subject of literature along the lines of love, jealousy and battle. Woolf writes, "Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light...it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have thought, would have been devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia, lyrics to toothache. But no; ... literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear."