Tuberculosis in the Arts

Tuberculosis’ portrayal in various aspects of literature and entertainment largely contributed to the rise of the tubercular aesthetic and the consumptive heroine. Check out some of the most famous below:

Romantic Poets

“Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies” -“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (1819)

Adonias by Percy and Mary Shelley (1821)

Personal Quotations:

“This consumption is a disease particulary fond of people who writse such good verses as you have done.” -Percy Shelley to John Keats; 1820 (Lawlor, 111).

“‘I look pale. I should like to die of consumption.’ ‘Why?’ asked his [Byron’s] guest. ‘Because the ladies would all say, ‘Look at that poor Byron, how interesting he looks in dying.'” –The Journal of Thomas Moore, 1826-1830 (Lawlor, 111).



Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (1839)

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881)


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)

The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872)

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1869)


Camille by Alexandre Dumas (1848)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)

Trilby by George du Maurier (1895)

United States of America:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906)


La bohéme by Puccini (1896)

The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach (1881)


Portrait of Marie Duplessis (inspiration for Camille in Duma’s Camille; died at 23 of tuberculosis). Painted by Édouard Viénot (1840s)

Source: (vis Wikicommons)

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1870)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Beata Beatrix, ca 1864-70.
Source: (via Wikicommons)

The Sick Child by Edvard Munch (1885)

Source: (via Wikicommons)